ο»Ώ

Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership




Title:      That Colony of God
Author:     Alice M. Browne
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0301431.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          November 2003
Date most recently updated: November 2003


Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

---------------------------------------------------------------------------


A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      That Colony of God
Author:     Alice M. Browne



That Colony of God
That immortal essence, that translated divinity and colony of God, the soul.

SIR THOMAS BROWNE.


They pry into Death, I pry into Life.

HENRI LEFEBRE.


The fashion of our mortal brains
New names for dead men's thoughts shall give,
But we find not for all our pains
Why 'tis so wonderful to live;
The beauty of a meadow-flower
Shall make a mock of all our skill,
And God upon His lonely tower
Shall keep His secret, secret still.

RICHARD LE GALLIENNE.

* * * * *

THAT COLONY OF GOD

A NOVEL
BY
Alice M. Browne
Author of "The Rector of Amesty."



TO THE DEAR MEMORY OF
MARY SALTER BROWNE 1823--1906



* * * * *

CHAPTER I

Evil speaking is malignity's balm.
       Joubert.

"HEY' her's not a bad lookin' girl as girls go, but pinky-white cheeks
and blue eyes ain't everything; tho' there's no denying that they'll
screw a man's neck round an' open his mouth when he'd be wiser to keep
it shet an' go straight forrard!"

"Ha, ha!" laughed Sir Edward Mainwaring, as he recognised by the twist
he had given to his muscles when peering through the little office
window that the gossipy post-mistress had ocular proof at the moment of
the veracity of at least one of her statements. "But that girl is not a
native of Monthurst, surely? And there's more than pinky-whiteness, as
you call it, in her face. She's got something that a woman with good
looks should never be without and that's self-respect, Mrs Gossall."

"If you mean pride, Sir Edward M. Mainwaring," snapped the other, "Hett
Bishop's got that in double measure, though her doesn't come anigh
Missus Bishop for stuckuppiness; an' she's no real kin to the girl
neither, on'y her step-mother. Where they come from nobody knows, an'
though they've lived for the past ten 'ears no farder off the
post-office than you can see, they scarce ever do more than pass the
time o' day when they meet you!"

"Don't care for village gossip, eh? I see," and a shrewd smile would
have revealed the speaker's unnamed discovery had it not been
effectually concealed beneath a thick grizzled moustache. "Well," he
continued, as he seated himself in a Windsor chair, " there are few
things more enjoyable to my mind than a good dish of gossip, and I can
do with it fairly spiced, Mrs Gossall!"

"Bless you, I don't want to be talking to cantankerous creatures wi'
more prickles ner a hedge-hog," returned the post-mistress viciously,
her asperity finding additional momentary relief in a sharp swing of her
body to the right. "A close woman though I abhor; an' it's my belief,
Sir Edward M. Mainwaring, that Missus Bishop wouldn't open her mouth
unless her were so minded - well, not to have a tooth drawed. You may
smile, Sir Edward M. Mainwaring, but I detest that make o' woman - it's
a make I can't an' don't understand. I'm for speaking out my mind
whether folk like it or not. I let 'em see what I am - plain Jemimer
Gossall wi' no pertence about me. I don't set up for being a grand lady
too proud to speak to my betters."

"Of course not," remarked the baronet, pacifically; "You've got more
sense. But this Mrs Bishop must be really a very remarkable woman; I've
always found women, well - only too ready if anything to talk."

"Why, that's nature wi' wimmen, Sir Edward M. Mainwaring," returned the
other with the air of one accepting a compliment; "You'd not be for
having 'em onnat'ral like Missus Bishop, surely? But what I draw from
such closeness, such myster'ousness as hers, is that things ain't just
what they should be! There's a summat to hide, you may depend upon! It
ain't for no good when folk come among you an' won't own to no relations
nigher ner Adam an' Eve!"

The baronet, paying a short and first visit to his cousin the Vicar of
Monthurst, and now awaiting the return of the bicycle messenger he had
despatched to Burybridge with a prepaid telegram, found Mrs Gossall very
entertaining, and she asked, and evidently expected, but little in the
way of response. Indeed when he merely remarked that it was pleasanter
to live in friendly fashion with one's neighbours than not to be on
speaking terms, she almost drowned his words in the flood of verbiage
with which she rejoined--

"That's just what I say, Sir Edward M. Mainwaring: Why, I love my
neighbours, I do! As I say, ain't we commanded to love 'em? 'Tis part o'
the law an' the prophets. But then--if they won't let you love 'em, whose
fault is it you don't do your duty? That's what I should like to know."

"You should put that question to your parson, Mrs Gossall," and again
the speaker smiled cynically beneath the grizzly veil. "Parson
Brinsfield?" cried the woman shrilly, then paused as if to weigh the
wisdom of expressing an opinion of that gentleman to one of his guests,
one moreover, if report spoke truly, who was also a relative. Deciding
upon a non-committal course she dropped her voice and remarked in casual
tones, "He's got his hands pretty full now, as I daresay you know, Sir
Edward M. Mainwaring," and" she pointed to a small hand-bill lying on
the counter.

This set forth that on this very day "The Hon and Rev. R. Brinsfield,
M.A., Oxon., Honry. Secretary to the newly-formed ' Reverent Research
into the Unseen Society,' will speak on its aims and needs in the
Assembly Rooms, Chesterdoge, at 11 A.M and 3 P.M." In smaller type
appeared the tempting hope that Madame Stenograph, the celebrated
medium, would be present.

Evidently the baronet also recognised the necessity for cautious
treatment of the subject now upon the carpet for taking up one of
several briar pipes he commenced to test its drawing power.

The woman thereupon returned to the safer and to her equally pleasant
theme of slandering "they Bishops."

"It's my belief," she continued, "as Missus Bishop's never let Parson
inside of her door. Whatever Parson Jenkins done, her's no call to be
rude to Mr Brinsfield. Three 'ears it is since he come to Monthurst an'
not once has she opened her door to him, nor even passes the time o' day
if she meets him. Hey, folks ain't walking stinging nettles for nothin'
you may depen'!"

The baronet was once again all attention as he reseated himself.

"An' what I says is this " (here the speaker eyed her listener severely
as if daring him to dispute her statement while at the same time she
brought her right hand heavily down upon the little counter), " there's
a summat to hide! A summat to hide! You understand, Sir Edward M.
Mainwaring?"

"Skeletons in the cottage cupboard, eh?"

"Skillitons!" echoed the other wrathfully, and to the baronet's
undisguised astonishment, "I know nothing about skillitons, but who's
that young man's father? That's what I want to know," and the speaker
glared at the being opposite until she made him, against his better
judgment, feel distinctly uncomfortable.

"That's what I want to know," she repeated; but I bide my time. 'Murder
will out' is as true a word as ever was spoke."

"Dear, dear ! This is very interesting, Mrs Gossall. Do you think then
that murder has been committed by this Mrs--what did you call her? And
who was her victim?"

"Murder! Who said murder?" retorted the woman, too genuinely angry to
recognise her visitor's social status; "what with your skillitons an'
your murders an' your victims, sir, it don't seem safe to pass an ornery
proverb with you. But I'll be plainer spoke. I said I should like to
know who that young man's father is!"

The next moment the speaker was bustling to the door and resuming her
usual manner exclaimed, "Ha, here's the boy. Sir Edward M. Mainwaring;
an' here's your telegraf," she continued as she took the pink envelope
from the messenger and handed it to the baronet.

"Thanks, Mrs Gossall," said the latter, as he dismissed the boy with a
sixpence and thrust a shilling into the woman's ready hand. "I've been
quite interested in your talk and, if this telegram doesn't call me back
to town tomorrow, I'll come in and have another chat about these strange
people, the walking-stinging-nettles as I think you called them.
Good-evening."

"He's a query, he is," soliloquised the post-man's wife as she watched
the baronet walk " up street " to the vicarage. "What call had he got
to use the word ' murder.' As if I cared a jot who Harry Marston's
father is, or mother either! But Missus Bishop don't put on grand airs
wi' me wi'out paying for 'em one way or t'other, she may depen'! My--it
does look black! But Gossall 'ull be in afore the storm I reckon!"

And the speaker, after a search-light gaze at the heavens above and
around, re-entered her cottage to prepare supper for the old postman her
husband. As she spread the cloth in the little inner room she grumbled
to herself: "I wonder now what Hett Bishop was going up Beadon-Hill-way
for. I'll be bound she'll meet Harry Marston there, the hussy! She'd a
letter from him this morning, Gossall told me!"

CHAPTER II

Nature hath made one world and Art another. Nature is the Art of God.
Religio Medici.

Quand les beaux modeles me manquent je me sers d'une certuine idee que
j'ai dans I'esprit. Raphael to Baldassare Castiglione.

As Sir Edward Mainwaring strode leisurely upwards, a rarely hot day in
the early part of June, 1913, was languidly ebbing into Time's great
backwater of the Past, the air too inert to disperse the sweet
breathings of honeysuckles and roses hidden away behind hedged or walled
gardens. The sky, pure blue where it canopied this out-of-the-world,
high-lying village of Monthurst, away in the west was mustering ominous
clouds, behind which the sun slunk with angry gleam, as a dog slinks and
snarls at an uplifted stone.

Eastwards, some three-quarters of a mile from, but on a level with the
church, which dominated the neighbourhood, rose a miniature forest of
pines, an inky patch on the pearl-grey clouds above and about it, for
the on-coming storm had not yet affected their lustre. On the outermost
edge of the wood, at a point commanding the highroad (herself concealed
therefrom by a thick barrier of hawthorn and wild-rose) stood a girl of
some twenty summers--the Hetty Bishop who an hour ago had evoked the
admiration of Sir Edward Mainwaring and the vituperation of Mrs Gossall.
The simplicity of her soft white cotton-gown and straw hat bespoke a
carelessness as to effect remarkable in a girl of her age and
attractions. Somewhat fragile she seemed as she stood on the height, the
slenderness of her white-clothed figure accentuated by the blackness of
the surrounding pine trees, and that she was deeply agitated would have
been obvious to any concealed observer.

She was alone and her full heart, sternly, almost religiously, barred to
outsiders (of whom her step-mother ranked one) was unable to resist this
rare opportunity of solitude to unburden itself of emotion barely
removed from anguish. A secret, involving separation from the young man
she almost idolized, had been weighing upon her spirit ever since she
returned from the Hurstwick milliner after a breakdown of health in the
early spring. To no one had she disclosed it, not even to the elderly
spinster who had taught her all she knew since her step-mother brought
her from Ireland at the age of five; neither had the milliner, Miss
Buzzard, any idea of it, nor the vicar's wife, Mrs Brinsfield, whom her
step-mother had forbidden her to become friendly with.

Only one human being, a young Hurstwick doctor, knew of her trouble, and
he had probably long since forgotten it. She was but one among the many
of his patients who had early run up against a big obstacle in Life's
race.

But now she had decided she must no longer withhold her distressing news
from her lover, yet as she awaited his corning on the hill-top, the task
she had set herself became increasingly difficult. How would he take the
matter, he whose work, whose art, appeared to be the Alpha and Omega of
life, he who had said, in what to his listener were curiously casual
tones, "Of course, Hetty, I shall marry you some day, but you mustn't
expect a lot of silly love-making and all that rot!"

Now she turned and taking a few steps into the wood murmured again and
again with raised head and clasping hands, "How can I tell him? I must,
though, it would be wicked not to. Ah, God, why, why should this be? To
love, and to be torn from each other! Give me strength I pray Thee!"

Yet even in her agitation she was keenly alive to every movement on the
road, and when at length she caught both sound and sight of an
approaching wheelman she flew to the gate which divided the hedge and,
nothing but gladness in her shining eyes, gaily greeted the corner, as
he tossed her a hearty, "Well, Hett, sweetheart, how are you?"

Lolling his bicycle fall to the lush grass he placed one arm about the
girl's shoulders and the two walked forward into the wood.

"It's awfully good of you to have come up here, for besides saving me
two miles and a long stiff hill we get more time together and have it
all to ourselves, too. By the by, how is Aunt Judith? And are you going
back to Miss Buzzard?"

"Mother's just the same as ever, Harry, though she hasn't said much
lately about you and me; she never breathed a word even against my
coming here to meet you."

"Knew you'd come all the same, I expect," interpolated the young man.

"I'm not thinking of going back to Miss Buzzard," continued the girl, "
she can't teach me anything more, and mother would rather have me at
home she says. I shall try to get some millinery work about here. But
it's your news, Harry, the 'something good' you hinted at in your short
letter. Have you gained another prize?"

"No, no, not another prize," returned the young man, as he placed
himself beside the girl upon a fallen treetrunk. "Something far better
than any prize," he continued, while the glow of anticipated joy
illumined his dreamy face. Then as an afterthought he added, "But it
means saying good-bye to you, Hett!"

"Good-bye?" echoed Hetty dazedly. For months past she had been wrestling
with the cruel truth that it was her plain duty to propose separation at
the first, opportunity, and now Harry was himself saying that dreaded
word, Good-bye. But in a flash she realised that he must be referring to
a mere temporary separation, one indeed of which she had heard vague
rumours for some time past. And she welcomed the knowledge, as one
welcomes the postponement of a difficult task, and the hope that it may
never call for performance.

Hardly, however, could Marston explain that his long looked-forward-to
sketching tour abroad was about to become a reality, than the girl,
forgetting utterly the necessity she had hitherto regarded as
inexorable, and dominated instead by the undying instinct of her sex
exclaimed, "But Miss Barton, Harry, does she go? She is not one of the
Fraternity, and this tour is only for the members, you told me so
yourself, you know you did."

"She's not a member certainly, for ladies are not permitted to become
members," returned Marston unhesitatingly, and with something like
surprise in his tones, "but if she goes with the party she goes. She's
Sir Howard's sister-in-law you know, and as he pays all our expenses it
rests with him to say who shall go and who shall not. I hope to goodness
she won't go, ladies are always in the way. I shall be too busy though
taking notes to take any notice of her or any other body," he concluded
with a laugh at his poor attempt at punning.

"Ah, I know how it will be if she goes," remarked Hetty, looking
straight before her at the picture her mind was projecting. "It'll be, '
Mr Marston will you carry my sketch book ' and ' Oh, Mr Marston, please
explain this archway ' and ' What is this style called, Mr Marston?"

"Silly child !" exclaimed the young fellow, his refined face and dreamy
eyes reflecting the amused annoyance he was experiencing.

"Then," continued the girl, " you'll be going up those endless towers
together, and it will be ' Please give me your hand, Mr Marston,' and
sometimes--where the steps are worn away, Harry--you'll have to take her
in your arms. Oh! oh!" And to her companion's dismay and distress the
girl fell to sobbing and weeping, her head against his shoulder.

"Now, now, Hett, this is rank folly," said the young man soothingly, "
you forget that Miss Barton is rich and well-born while I," and here the
speaker raised his head proudly, "am, just a poor penniless sculptor."

"Not penniless," objected Hetty, "now that Sir Howard Cressingham pays
you £2 a month and gives you board and lodging."

"I have to find my own clothes!" returned the youth, annoyance in his
tones, " and I am always wanting books. Why, I've only just finished
paying for my machine. Don't waste precious time talking rot. I've heaps
to tell you."

"But you used to like Miss Barton, Harry, before she went away--you know
you did," persisted the girl, now calm again, for a new idea had
presented itself and seemed to her worth consideration. If she and Harry
must be parted why shouldn't he marry Miss Barton?

"You used to like her before she went to Germany, and you've told me how
beautiful she is now, and you love everything that is beautiful."

"But not everybody, my dear girl," rejoined the young fellow; " she's
not--"

"No, no," interrupted the other, " you'll be falling in love with Miss
Barton if she goes this tour, now you see if you won't!"

And Hetty's words and manner were alarmingly suggestive of a readiness
to condone such a possibility. Yet three minutes ago she had fretted at
the very idea. Girls were queer creatures there was no mistake about it,
and Marston's heated rejoinder appeared to him natural and excusable.

"So you imagine me guilty of acting the contemptible puppy as well as
the consummate ass!"

What gross impertinence he silently, almost unconsciously argued for any
one to discuss Miss Barton, and above all to couple her name with his!
True, he had lived for months in the same town with her, when she had
paid long visits to her brother-in-law, Sir Howard Cressingham; but the
divinity who had but lately returned from a three years' sojourn in
Germany, appeared to have nothing in common with the child who used to
pop in and out of the school-studio making creatures in clay witth [sic]
impossible features, and behaving generally like some mocking, teasing
sprite.

Hetty, apparently satisfied to have evoked something like a
demonstration of her companion's feelings towards her, enquired with an
eagerness which an impassioned lover would have been quick to note and
overjoyed to welcome--

"Am I really as beautiful in your eyes as Miss Barton?"

"Why, Hett," returned Marston, at once the alert connoisseur, "I've
never thought of comparing you with her or with any one," and raising
his eyes to the girl's face he scrutinized it in a way that its owner
secretly resented.

"Ah," she thought, as the blood raced to her fair cheeks, dyeing them
till they resembled damask roses, "I should have put my arms about my
sweetheart's neck, and without looking at her, I should have called her
the loveliest and dearest thing in all the world."

But she kept her thoughts to herself, for with Love's prescience, she
who loved so passionately had been aware for some time past that any
exhibition of the tumult in her heart would be distasteful to Marston.
At this stage of his career, though unrecognised by himself, the young
artist, intent only upon his ideals needed not a passionate lover, but
rather a sympathetic listener, one who like an instrument should give
out such musical response as his soul demanded. He did not love Hetty
for her face, but he and she had been companions in childhood and she
was not only the only girl with whom he had ever been upon terms of
intimacy, but the only one to whom he had ever spoken of his hopes and
aims. Had she been plain he would still have confided in her, still have
called upon her sympathy and responsiveness.

Ami Hetty had come to understand this attitude and also to encourage the
hope that it would in time be supplanted by something warmer and more
engrossing. But she knew now without any manner of doubt that his heart
did not cry aloud for her, as did hers for him, and so when Marston
concluded his scrutiny by remarking, "You are really very pretty,
Hetty," she stifled a sigh and changed the topic.

"It will be awfully jolly for you. Harry, seeing all the statues and
buildings you've heard and read so much about, but do you know I've
wondered many times how the men who built the oldest cathedrals and
temples managed. They hadn't a chance of seeing anyone else's work, so I
suppose they must have done it all out of their own heads. Perhaps," she
proceeded dreamily as though shaping the thought for the first time, "
they came into a wood like this and seeing the straight slender
tree-trunks they thought it would be nice to copy them in stone and
cluster them together like the pillars in St. Mary's, Hurstwick. And
away down there, Harry-- where the pines curve over and kiss each other,
isn't that like a chancel arch?"

"Bravo, Hett! But do you know that the ancients usually converted the
clever men who improved upon Nature into gods--or martyrs!"

"Improved upon Nature?" echoed the girl, taking no notice of the
concluding portion of the other's remark, a ring of scepticism in her
voice. Was she not herself more than content if she could reproduce in
every detail the latest model in French hats, so that even a connoisseur
would be puzzled to say which was original and which copy? And Nature?
Why God made Nature! Could it be possible that Harry had the audacity to
think that anyone could improve upon it? Something like awe of the young
sculptor, a hitherto unknown feeling took possesion of her, and she
realised as never before how truly he and she were already detached. Her
step-mother had been right all along when she had bidden Hetty never to
think about Harry.

Harry was heights above her in every way though her step-mother had had
him to board from the work-house, and nobody knew who his parents were.
But how dear he was to her Hetty alone knew, yet she was debarred from
rightly comprehending him!

Now Miss Barton--no doubt she would understand everything he said, and an
involuntary sigh relieved for a moment the girl's over-full heart. What
did she know of the depths to which he had plumbed, or the heights to
which his spirit soared? But Harry was speaking.

"You mustn't think that I decry Nature," he protested, as he paused in
his pacings before Hetty, who remained seated--her soul in hot revolt
that these last moments they might ever spend together should be given
up to talk which she neither desired nor could understand. Why did he
not employ these precious minutes in the making of undying memories in
which Love with its endearments and sweet sadnesses would form both weft
and woof? The very thought of detachment from him was agony unspeakable
and she would not even hint at it now.

Hetty was unconsciously learning to have faith in Time. Time might even
speak for her, save her the pain of speech. What might not happen before
the date of Harry's return? And at the possibilities suggested by the
question the girl involuntarily shuddered.

As for Harry, he was now standing at the edge of the wood, his mind
instantly and completely removed from all his surroundings as he
examined with surprise, and something like distress, what he had really
meant by that glib phrase " improving upon Nature " --Nature whom he
loved with an intensity no words could portray.

For was it not Nature herself, as she crept into his inmost heart,
whispering delicious secrets to his willing ears, who suggested that he
could and must do better things than even she had accomplished?

All, yes, in the moonlight, in the starshine, in the darkness and the
solitude which he could almost at will create, did she not come and,
closing his eyelids, bid him see visions of unearthly beauty and
significance, urge him too to take clay and chisel and hammer to mould
and to hew and to group and contrast as she, except upon rare occasions,
was unable to do? Yes, it was then, when nature (surely "the Power of
the Highest") overshadowed him that his most lovely conceptions sprang
into existence, and he would add and take away, add and take away until
he was himself lost in wonder and reverential delight, while Nature,
standing by declared herself co-parent of that holy thing which would
presently be born of hime.

As all unconscious of his surroundings he stood, anxious only to pay
tribute to the abiding and abounding sense of his deep debt to Nature,
Hetty watched him with pathetic eyes and would not for the world have
disturbed him. Though they had been but little together of late she knew
something of his " moods " as she called these fits of abstraction. But
she all at once became aware of the passing day and realised that Harry
ought even now to be on his way back to the school. She noticed too for
the first time the darkening skies, and shivered slightly as a cool wind
suddenly swept through the trees of the wood and moved their branches
with something approaching to violence.

She rose, but as she reached the young man's side he turned, and without
the slightest apology for his abstraction said in animated tones, "Why,
Hett, I'd almost forgotten to give you my keepsake." And the speaker
drew from the breast pocket of his Norfolk jacket a panel photograph.

"Ha!" exclaimed Hetty, delightedly, " the prize work! How lovely!"

"I've made a tiny model for you," said the young sculptor, secretly
enjoying the girl's evident gratification; "I was afraid though I might
come a cropper on the bike so I've packed it up and you'll get it by
Gossall on Saturday."

"That's awfully good of you; but Harry, I've never seen any font like
this before. And what a beautiful face the Saviour has! It is the
Saviour, Harry?"

"The usual figures, if figures are introduced on or about a font," said
Marston, didactically, " are either Adam and Eve or St. John the
Baptist, but I thought I should prefer a life-size presentment of our
Saviour on the steps with the babe in His arms."

"And how He loves it! You can see that in a moment. And the babe is
sweet beyond words! But this iron-work springing from each side of the
font?" continued the girl, her eyes devouring every detail of the
photograph, " and sunflowers! Why, Harry, you have made them just as
they grow in our garden, black-buds and all. How clever!"

"My dear child --" commenced the young fellow, his manner a mingling of
pleased deprecation and patronage, but Hetty, still intent upon the
representation before her continued to give out that appreciation of
minute detail so dear to the artist's heart.

"Ah, I see now!" she interrupted, " there is a chain hanging from the
top where the iron trellis-work meets, and it holds the cover of the
font. Why you mean it for a well, don't you?"

"There is very little that is original in the thing, I'm sorry to say,
but then it's not easy to be original, especially in the matter of
fonts."

"Well, I've never seen one like this before," protested the girl.

"Perhaps you haven't, Hetty; I haven't. But all the same it is almost an
exact copy of the well in the monastery garden of La Certosa near
Florence. You must know that the font is to be placed at the head of a
short flight of steps in the baptistery of an enormous Roman Catholic
cathedral that has lately been put up in Montreal. The baptistery itself
is just a church in miniature, with small chapels on each side of the
nave, and these look so much like cloisters that it seemed to me no font
could be so appropriate as one representing the well which always stood
in the middle of those old cloistered gardens."

"lt's lovely!" repeated Hetty, as she held the photograph at arm's
length and shut one eye.

"Well, I'm glad you like it."

"Yes, indeed, I like it awfully."

"But, my word, Hett, how dark it's getting," said the young fellow, for
the first time conscious of the alarming change in the atmosphere; " by
Jove, there's a thunderstorm coming up, and it will be crashing over
Monthurst before you can get home, unless you hurry off at once. Ha,
there's the first rain drop! I shall be all right because I run outrun
the storm with my machine, but you're in for a wetting I fear, and you
mustn't think of sheltering under a tree. Now, kiss me, old girl, and
run!"

"How long will you be away. Harry?" queried Hetty, as she hid the
photograph in the folds of her bodice.

"Goodness knows, I don't!" returned Marston, as he stooped to raise his
machine, " perhaps a fortnight, perhaps a month. One never knows what
Sir Howard will do till one gets his orders. But do hurry, there's a
dear; it's going to be a drencher, and the wood's a dangerous place.
I'll send you some p.p.c.'s from the places we stay at and 11 Irlirr
when I can."

"And, Harry," said Hetty as she held the gate open, " rriiK - nihcr I
don't really care a bit whether Miss Barton gnpg or not. I daresay it
will be pleasanter for you if she doeB ('" I" '• Itother Miss Barton!
Run, run, run!" Si with a hurried kiss upon the cheek (a parting so
(liffrrnil, in every respect to that Hetty had pictured to lifi - HrIf
when she started for the rendezvous} the two Mrpnnilcd, and Marston was
upon the road and beneath a rlrnr nly when Hetty turned and thus met the
full force of The on - coming storm. At the same moment the hour nf nine
plunged out from the tower of Monthurst churcH riilli'd by the villagers
" the thunder tempter."

Willi licr gown skirt round her shoulders and vainly

THAT COLONY OF GOD 23 baptistery itself is just a church in miniature,
with small chapels on each side of the nave, and these look so much like
cloisters that it seemed to me no font could be so appropriate as one
representing the well which always stood in the middle of those old
cloistered gardens."

"It's lovely!" repeated Hetty, as she held the photograph at arm's
length and shut one eye. "Well, I'm glad you like it."

"Yes, indeed, I like it awfully."

"But, my word, Hett, how dark it's getting," said the young fellow, for
the first time conscious of the alarming change in the atmosphere; " by
Jove, there's a thunderstorm coming up, and it will be crashing over
Monthurst before you can get home, unless you hurry off at once. Ha,
there's the first rain drop! I shall be all right because I can outrun
the storm with my machine, but you're in for a wetting I fear, and you
mustn't think of sheltering under a tree. Now, kiss me, old girl, and
run!"

"How long will you be away, Harry?" queried Hetty, as she hid the
photograph in the folds of her bodice. "Goodness knows, I don't!"
returned Marston, as he stooped to raise his machine, " perhaps a
fortnight, perhaps a month. One never knows what Sir Howard will do till
one gets his orders. But do hurry, there's a dear; it's going to be a
drencher, and the wood's a dangerous place. I'll send you some ppc.'s
from the places we stay at and a letter when I can."

"And, Harry," said Hetty as she held the gate open, " remember I don't
really care a bit whether Miss Barton goes or not. I daresay it will be
pleasanter for you if she does go!"

"Bother Miss Barton! Run, run, run!"

So with a hurried kiss upon the cheek (a parting so different in every
respect to that Hetty had pictured to herself when she started for the
rendezvous) the two separated, and Marston was upon the road and beneath
a clear sky when Hetty turned and thus met the full force of the
on-coming storm. At the same moment the hour of nine clanged out from
the tower of Monthurst church called by the villagers " the thunder
tempter."

With her gown skirt round her shoulders and vainly pressed in double
folds above the precious photograph, the girl hurried across the fields
right into the heart of what seemed a veritable water-spout. The
rain-drops smote her unshielded form like stinging darts, yet, as they
fell upon her, they appeared to bring with them a hint of peace and even
gladness. Wet to the skin, her hat dank and draggled, her shoes
sodden--when she set foot upon the streaming village-street her eyes were
shining, and her lips had fallen into a happy curve.

On she sped but with a leisured haste as though she had nothing but good
to receive from the company of thunder, rain and lightning.

Perhaps like the seer of the Apocalyptic vision " the thunders uttered
their voices " with a special message for her, and, like him, she may
have heard a voice from Heaven bidding her to keep the secret the
thunders had spoken.

That is as may be but certainly something had occurred since she had
said good-bye to Marston to change her outlook, something neither
obvious nor even traceable by an outsider; something the apprehending of
which served to transfigure her countenance and render her oblivious of
the clammy body she was conducting to shelter. She even went round to
the scullery through the garden door and on entering it exclaimed in
cheery tones, "So sorry, mother, I -- "

But as she lifted up her voice the words were drowned in her throat.
Something warm and sweet passed her lips and, as it fell in crimson
drops upon the slate-coloured sink, Mrs Bishop, with darkening brow,
entered the room and hurried to her side.

But Hetty's eyes were shining, the burden of her heavy secret had
miraculously lightened: she and Harry need not be, should not be parted!
Oh, thank God--yes, and thank the Vicar too!!

CHAPTER III

The marble image warms into life not at the toil of the chisel but the
worship of the sculptor; the mechanical workman finds only the voiceless
stone. Bulwer.

THAT same evening while Hetty and Harry were discussing Miss Barton, her
cousin, Squire Bevingham, was motoring her past their meeting place to
Monthurst Vicarage, where he drew up in fine style as his sister-in-law,
Mrs Brinsfield, appeared in the porch. "All alone you see, Beatie,
except for Isobel, and of course she doesn't count," he exclaimed as he
sprang out to assist a handsome girl of eighteen, the only other
occupant of the car. Isobel, however, neither required nor accepted the
proffered aid, and with the one word "Tease!" addressed to her cousin
she warmly returned the greeting of the Vicar's wife.

"Helena and Mrs Mitchell were afraid to venture," continued the Squire.
"An ugly storm seemed about to descend upon Bevingham, and although I
promised to outrun it and bring them here in the dry they preferred to
take no risks. But I've kept my word, Isobel," and the speaker
triumphantly directed attention to the stretch of blue sky visible above
the tall elms of the drive; " it won't be here for another hour or
more."

"Well, I'm thankful you were not too frightened to venture. Miss
Barton," said Beatrice with evident sincerity, while she noted the
girl's ivory-like complexion and beautiful eyes--" violets in snow "--"
Even with you, a host in yourself, our sex will be greatly in the
minority. I got a wire this afternoon from Reginald," and the speaker's
brow clouded momentarily as she turned to the Squire, " saying he cannot
possibly get home till to-morrow or Saturday evening. So you'll have to
take his place at dinner, Harold."

Then, giving him no opportunity for comment, she led the way upstairs,
saying, "Just think of it, Miss Barton! We shall be two against five,
that is if all the men turn up as I expect they will."

"What fun!" exclaimed the girl. "Do you know I'd much rather have more
men than women. Now, wouldn't you?" and the speaker caught her hostess
impulsively by the arm and, imagining she read assent in those dark grey
eyes, continued, "Ha, I thought so! You see if you get a man well
started on his hobby there's no fear of the others being dull, for if
they don't jump up alongside they're quite happy in trying to pull the
rider down, or introducing their own special breed of animal!"

"Is that your experience? No, I can't say that I am fond of hobby-riding
at dinner," remarked Beatrice thoughtfully as she laid aside the girl's
dust-cloak. "I'm fairly content with the weather, a new book, a new
singer, or even the servant-question and surface matters of that sort
for table-talk. Ah, I see you think me something of a vulgarian."

"No, no indeed, I couldn't think that," returned the other. "No, I
understand what you mean. My sister doesn't like hobbies at dinner, she
says they are far more objectionable than cats or dogs. Howard, as you
know, has Art on the brain, and his efforts to make converts to his
particular fads are not always productive of harmony. And, of course,
Home Rule, Votes for Women, Spiritualism and such topics are best not
discussed at meals."

Mrs Brinsfield glanced at the girl, who certainly had no idea she had
made a faux pas. "Well, if you're ready, Miss Barton, we'll go down, for
it's almost time the men were here. Now you've not met my husband's
second-cousin, I think, Sir Edward Mainwaring. He's only spending a day
or two with us, though he hasn't been in England for something like ten
years I believe. He has enormous sheep farms in Australia, but is by no
means ' woolly.' Indeed he hopes shortly to bring out a book on ' The
Battlefields of Italy,' where, he says, he got stranded five years ago,
and has only managed to get away this spring because his uncle insisted
upon seeing him."

"He found Italy so fascinating I suppose?" said Isobel as she settled
herself comfortably in an easy chair in the pretty drawing-room. "And I
don't wonder," she continued. "I'm just longing to go there, indeed I'm
counting the hours till we set out."

"And I really believe Sir Edward is fidgetting to return there; he
certainly will be off again as soon as the Earl can spare him, or -- "
and the speaker made a significant pause.

"Is the Earl then so ill?" asked the girl sympathetically.

"He appears to be rapidly breaking up. Dear old man! I shall miss him
greatly whenever he is taken."

Isobel made no audible comment, though her thoughts busied themselves in
contemplating a situation in which grief at the loss of a relative stood
face to face with the enlarged sphere of influence that that loss would
bring to the woman before her; for the Hon and Rev. Reginald Brinsfield
was heir-presumptive to the Earldom of Brudenham, and Beatrice would one
day be a Countess.

But the latter, returning to the more immediate question of her guests,
continued to enumerate them.

"Of course you know Harold's rector, Canon Merehaven, and also his
parishioner our local practitioner, Dr Mallam? The Doctor sent round
this morning to ask if he might bring his guest, an Italian doctor who
is here for the International Medical Congress. As I daresay you know,
the meetings are being held (they may be over now) at Chesterdoge this
year--and Dr. Mallam is entertaining Dottor Crapezzo."

"A real live Dottore!" exclaimed Isobel, clapping her hands gleefully,
"I am indeed in luck this evening and must make the most of this
unexpected chance to improve my scant knowledge of things Italian. But,"
and the speaker glanced shyly at the beautiful face of her hostess, " my
best time will come when you and I are having a talk all to ourselves."

"That's very nice of you dear," returned Beatrice. "Yes, you certainly
must ' improve the occasion ' as the Army Captain so often says when he
preaches on the Green. We shall have to scheme though to keep the
Dottore and Sir Edward apart or there will be hobby-riding galore! I'll
put you between them at dinner."

And as Beatrice joined in her young guest's pleased laughter the door
opened and Bennett, the Brinsfield's factotum, ushered in "Canon
Merehaven," "Dr. Crapezzo " and "Dr. Mallam," who were immediately
followed by Sir Edward Mainwaring and the Squire, Harold Bevingham.

It was an unpleasant moment for the hostess as she excused her husband's
absence, for she knew well that Canon Merehaven, invited to meet his old
College mate the Baronet, must have brought pressure to bear upon
himself to accept an invitation from an acknowledged spiritualist. On
this topic the two clerics were as far removed as the poles, and
Beatrice, as she shook hands with the Canon, silently decided that "
perhaps after all it is a good thing Naldo isn't here." She was thankful
too that no one made any reference to " the engagement " which had kept
him from his guests, and that spiritualism was not once named during the
evening. Miss Barton indeed knew nothing of the vicar's penchant for
spirit-knowledge, and both she and her hostess were ignorant of the fact
that he had been burnt in effigy at Chesterdoge that afternoon. If the
two doctors who had come on from there in Mallam's car were aware of it
they made no reference to the incident.

Bevingham proved an excellent substitute for the absent host, and was
voluble in apologies and regrets for the non-appearance of his wife and
her friend Mrs Mitchell. "So foolish of them," he commented, " for I
guaranteed to arrive before the storm, and it will be over long before
we are ready to start home again."

The now rapidly approaching storm indeed formed the topic of universal
comment for some minutes after the party had entered the dining room.
The candles on the flower-decked table were alight and though the three
French windows of the darkening room were flung open to their widest
extent, the atmosphere was tense as if it had pulled itself together in
anticipation of a deadly onslaught. The Italian who spoke English
perfectly and was evidently no stranger to English social life, had
accepted with courteous ease the position at once assigned to him of " a
friend's friend." But he had not the volubility Isobel had always
regarded as typically Italian, and surely his eyes and hair should be
black not deep brown she silently commented.

But she had only recently returned from Dresden where she had been
studying music for the past three years, and her knowledge of Italian
men and women was gathered wholly from, and limited to, the
professionals, who occasionally performed at the weekly concerts she
attended with the German ladies to whose tuition and care she had been
confided.

"Off to Italy the day after to-morrow, Mrs Brinsfield?" exclaimed
Crapezzo, surprise in his tones as he repeated the remark of his
hostess, upon whose left he was seated; "but surely, Miss Barton," he
continued, addressing his neighbour for the first time since his
introduction in the drawing-room, " you are for the hills, not the
cities, at this time of year?"

"Oh, I know it is late for Florence," returned the girl, " but we go
there direct, or rather to Fiesole. You see -- " and the speaker,
hesitating, turned to her cousin as if hoping he would explain things
for her. He, however, as usual, was joking with his neighbours, but
Beatrice came to her aid with the remark--

"Hadn't your brother-in-law arranged to take his artist-pupils, or some
of them, to Florence for Easter week, and then had to abandon the trip
on account of his mother's sudden death?"

"Yes," returned the girl gratefully, " and unless he goes now the pupils
will have to wait till next spring for their outing, and that would be a
great disappointment for them."

"By the by, what does Sir Howard call his School, or is it a Guild?"
asked Mallam, from the right of his hostess'".

"Now that the pupils are doing good work (and lately they have had some
very expensive commissions) Howard has named the School the '
Confraternity of Poor Architects -- ' "

"Poor Architects?" echoed Bevingham from the end of the table, attracted
by the opportunity of indulging in some fresh pleasantry; " then Sir
Howard, who certainly ought to be a good judge, doesn't appraise their
powers too highly. But its always best to be straightforward," continued
the speaker patronisingly; " a card bearing the information ' Inferior
Ginger Beer Sold Here " hung for some time in Jane Mobb's window in our
village when I was a boy and though I have no statistics to refer to
I'll be bound the brazen honesty of the announcement created quite a run
upon the stuff. But that Howard should label his own pupils, I should
say his own artistic offspring, with so depreciative an adjective is a
magnificent, as well as an astonishing, piece of frankness."

"Nonsense, Harold," returned the girl, flushing divinely beneath her
ivory skin, " you know very well what Howard means, no one indeed could
mistake, except wilfully, the true meaning of that word ' poor.' "

Bevingham chuckled. Isobel was delightful when she took him seriously,
as she so often did.

"Don't listen to the Philistine, Miss Barton," cried Sir Edward, "I
gather that the pupils lack material, not artistic wealth, and that Sir
Howard is a munificent patron."

"That is so," remarked the Canon, while Crapezzo expressed genuine
surprise and delight that so much liberality and love for Art existed in
England in this utilitarian age.

"I myself can answer for the material poverty of at least one member of
the Confraternity," observed Beatrice, glad of the opportunity of making
the conversation general.

"Why, of course you can," assented Isobel. "Harry Marston was born in
this village, wasn't he?"

"I am not sure," returned the other guardedly, " for Sir Howard
discovered and carried him off from the school before my husband
accepted the living."

"Howard is immensely pleased with his work," observed Isobel, " and you
know of course that a replica of the font he designed and executed for
an R.C cathedral at Montreal is in the Academy this year?"

"I shall go to town on purpose to have a look at it," remarked the
rector, while Mainwaring wanted to know if the young man's father was
the village stone-mason. "Or," added Crapezzo, " like Michael Angelo was
his foster-mother the wife of a quarryman?"

The others, excepting Isobel, laughed a good deal, and just when
seriousness was regained the Squire upset it once more by the query--" Or
was he brought up on chalk and water?"

Isobel silently resented these trivialities. What was birth in
comparison with worth? And wasn't Harry Marston acknowledged to be an
accomplished sculptor? She still cherished a small plaster figure he had
made specially for her in the happy days before she went to
Dresden--when, child as she was she would elude her governesses and make
" loaves " and " pigs " and whatnot with the clay always to be found in
the school studio.

But Mrs Brinsfield was saying, "I have never made any enquiries as to
his parentage, I always took it for granted he was an orphan--but he has
friends here and I believe occasionally comes over to see them."

"I've heard Howard say," Isobel chimed in, " that Mr Marston has no
recollection whatever of either of his parents, but," she added
thoughtfully, " they must have been nice people, for though he is very
reserved, he has very nice manners."

"Dear me!" exclaimed Sir Edward, " besides genius, undoubted genius,
this youthful prodigy is also endowed with another of the colour
elements of life--mystery. Ah, I have it!" and Mainwaring raised and
brought his hand down lightly on the table much as Archimedes might have
done when he cried "Eureka," "this youngster must be the identical chap
your postmistress referred to this evening, whose father, so she darkly
hinted, she intended to unearth at unheard of cost."

Again laughter ran round the table, for all, with the exception of
Isobel and Crapezzo, could lay claim to an acquaintance more or less
close with Mrs Gossall.

"Oh, Dame Gossall," cried the Squire with humorous contempt, " she most
decidely [sic] believes in the Apostolic injunction that every one
should be ' a living epistle known and read of all men ' and women--not
bad that for a postmistress, eh? Woe betide the being who attempts to
hide a secret from her flaw-seeking eye!"

"Oh, I scarcely think her neighbours take her seriously," objected
Beatrice; " they know her so well that she hasn't the power to do the
harm she otherwise would."

"It's strange, though, how people of every condition fear a gossip's
tongue," observed the baronet tentatively. "Didn't the evergreen
Aurelius say that we stand more in awe of our neighbours' judgments than
of our own, and presumably we know more about ourselves than an outsider
does?"

"Ah, but the out-and-out gossipper has generally some spite to satisfy
and that discounts her so-called judgment," remarked Bevingham.

"There's a lot of imaginative power though in a gossip," said the Rector
meditatively.

"A born story teller, romancist, eh? Good that for you, Canon! Someone
might collect and edit ' the fairytales of the village gossip--Dame
Gossall,' and, by Jove, make a good thing of it too." And the Squire's
smile was reflected on the faces of the amused listeners.

"I fancy Dame Gossall would go beyond fairy tales and even run to
tragedies. She seemed to me to be a particularly venomous specimen of
the gossip cult," averred Mainwaring, " talked of skeletons in the
cupboard, and even quoted the proverb ' Murder will out ' when talking
of this young fellow. She has some special spite, I gathered, against a
Mrs Bishop whose step-daughter, quite a pretty girl, passed up the
street when I was waiting in the little shop this afternoon."

"Well, as far as I'm aware," remarked Beatrice, " there is no mystery
whatever connected with Harry Marston and Mrs Bishop." (" The walking
stinging nettle," ejaculated the baronet sotto voce.) "She's not a woman
who cares for gossip, but she never made a secret of the fact that she
received the boy from Hurstwick workhouse when he was, I believe, some
five or six years old."

"Ha!" observed Mallam, "Hurstwick was one of the first unions to adopt
the wholesome plan of boarding-out paupers."

The dessert was now upon the table, and while the foregoing little talk
was proceeding, the Dottore, who seemed in no wise interested in it (why
should he be?) turned to Isobel and endeavoured to excite her attention
by his description of the scenery and surroundings of his Italian home.

"Ah, Possagno, it is charming! and was, as you perhaps know the
birthplace of our great sculptor Canova--surely your cousin--your
brother-in-law (Scusatemi!) Sir Howard, would like his pupils to visit
it, and the museum with the casts of all his works, non e vero? The
country all round too is grand, leading presently to the lovely Val
Sugana which will I trust soon be ours again. You could travel thence
through the Tyrol and by the Bavarian Highlands direct to England--a
delightfully cool route. Pray say to Sir Howard that I will gladly
welcome his party to the best Possagno can give."

But Isobel, who wanted to hear what was being said about Harry Marston
(which she foolishly imagined her neighbour wished to ignore) replied
somewhat limply--

"It would no doubt be delightful to visit Possagno, but I know nothing
of my brother-in-law's plans after Fiesole."

"How large is your party?" enquired the Rector, wondering somewhat at
the girl's lack of interest in details to which he had listened
delightedly.

"I don't quite know, Canon, but Howard won't hear of taking more than
five altogether, including himself. The trip, so he says, is only
organised in the interests of his pupils, and he's awfully afraid, or so
he pretends, that, as it is, he may be mistaken for a Cook's conductor."

"Ha, ha!" laughed the Squire, " that wouldn't suit Howard's book at
all."

"But, Miss Barton," interposed Mallam, " is the word ' architect ' the
proper, or rather the best term, think you, to apply to these pupils,
whose work, if I understand rightly, is chiefly sculptural?"

"The maker of that font, from what I've heard of it, should be called a
poet I think," observed the Canon.

"Yes, in the sense the Greeks used the word," interposed Mainwaring.

"But," objected Mallam, "would not artificer be a better term to
describe the designer, who is also the worker out of the design?"

Here the Squire, turning from the servant at his elbow and utterly
mistaking the drift of the question, rushed in with the remark--

"Oh, Sir Howard believes that the man who designs is the only being
capable of executing his design--he won't hear of any division of
labour--so the term ' poor architect ' is more elastic than charity and
covers any amount of --"

"Splendid work," concluded the doctor.

"Ah, well, Mallam, you too, Dottore," rejoined Bevingham bowing to the
Italian, " according to Sir Howard ought to make up all your own
prescriptions or, so I gather, they can never produce the results you
have designed."

A general burst of laughter followed but Isobel caught and resented the
Squire's comical look at the two doctors. Before she could make any
protest Crapezzo, perhaps noting her annoyance and desiring to divert
it, asked her to describe this much-talked of chef d'oeuvre of the "
poor Architect " and the girl gladly responded.

"The font itself," she explained, " is just a copy of an octagonal
monastery-garden well, with tall sunflower plants, leaves, buds, and
full blooms in beaten iron work on two opposite sides."

"We have many such in my country," remarked the Dottore.

"Yes," added the baronet, " and when one comes upon these old gardens in
the heart of cities they are doubly enchanting."

"I think Mr Marston got his idea from the monastery garden of La Certosa
outside Florence," said Isobel.

"Ah, that has the Luca della Robbia plaques on the cloister-arches
facing the garden," observed the Canon. "They have a fine well and a
fine position there, though I believe the Government took over the whole
place some years ago," and the speaker looked at the Italian
questioningly.

"That is so," returned Crapezzo, " but surely the well-font type is no
novelty in your churches?" he asked, and turned to his hostess.

"Oh!" interrupted Isobel eagerly, " it is not the well that is
wonderful, but the splendid life-figure of Christ which is intended to
stand just beyond the sun-flowers at the head of a flight of steps; and
the Child in His arms is beautiful too."

"Did you see Mr Marston at work on it?" asked Beatrice, noting with
pleased sympathy the lovely flush of enthusiasm beneath the girl's
transparent skin. "Oh, no, the thing was begun and completed while I was
in Dresden--but I've seen the replica at the Academy."

"No conventional representation of our Lord then I take it?" queried the
Dottore.

"No, no," returned Isobel emphatically, " this is quite different from
anything I have ever seen; instead of the usual woman's countenance with
hair to the shoulders Mr Murston has produced a strong face, with mouth
of exquisite tenderness and a figure manly and noble in every line,
God-like ' Howard calls it."

"Will the young artist have adapted his Christ from one of the many
photographs of the chef-d'oeuvres of sculptors now so get-at-able, Miss
Barton?" hazarded Sir Edward.

"No, he wouldn't look at any of them, though my brother-in-law had
specially purchased both casts and photographs to help him; instead,
Howard told me that Mr Marston gave himself up for a week to the study
of the four Gospels and after that shut his eyes for two whole days
neither eating nor drinking and in the darkness (this is what Howard
told me) he visualised the Christ which later on he produced in
marble.'"

The two doctors here exchanged a fleeting glance, but it was the Canon
who spoke--

"Ah, as seeing Him Who is invisible," he murmured.

A moment's perceptible silence followed and then the baronet addressing
Crapezzo observed, "A far cry from that little extremely ungodlike
figure on a fine church of yours at Verona."

"On the facade of S. Zeno? Yes. You are thinking of the little old man
drawing Eve from the side of the sleeping Adam? Very rough and crude,
even droll those twelfth century sculptors were."

"Not, more crude and droll I venture to say than the ideas people have
in these days about their Maker," broke in Bevingham, turning to the
table after giving certain instructions to Bennett. "Just go into any
half-dozen cottages in this or any English village or town and you'll be
suprised, perhaps shocked at the variety, the crudity of the ideas the
people dwelling in them will confess to you if you can get them to talk
on religious matters."

The ladies looked thoughtful.

"It is the same thing in every country," said Crapezzo. "Man must and
does etherealise or materialise more or less vaguely the Deity he
worships."

"Yes, but usually his Deity is just a being with the same likes and
dislikes as himself--as, for instance, that woman Dean Hole tells of.
Have you heard the story?" asked the Squire, eager evidently to tell it.

But at this moment all were startled by a vivid flash of lightning
followed immediately by a heavy clap of thunder directly overhead and
the party involuntarily rising, approached the open windows. From these,
protected by the verandah, they watched the rain as now it fell to the
gravelled walks with a force that shattered it into myriads of shining
diamonds, or now, carried by the wind in sheets across the lawn was
there flung away in strips and tatters.

"God help the shelterless," murmured Beatrice, and then her thoughts of
her children, she touched Isobel, "Shall we go to the nursery, Miss
Barton, and later you will give us all some music?"

When the two beautiful women had left the room and the men had returned
to the table where jagged blue lightning zig-zagged about the red-shaded
candles, Mallam, anxious that his guest should see Bevingham in the role
of raconteur, urged the Squire to give the story of Dean Hole's woman.

"Well, this Worcestshire woman, so the story, for the truth of which the
Dean vouches, goes, was detailing a list of woes to her rector whom she
hadn't seen for some time. First she had lost her sister by death.
"There were a worse trouble ner that, though: the pig died all of a
suddint; but it pleased the Lord to take him and we mun bow, we mun
bow."

"Really, Squire, you are incorrigible," exclaimed Merehaven, when he
could speak for the laughter which convulsed him. His fellow listeners
were indeed dumb from exhaustion, the imitation in tone and manner
proving irresistibly comic.

"Inimitable!" at length murmured Crapezzo.

"But you've not heard the finish," continued the narrator, the placid
lines of his good-humoured face scarcely affected by the mirth he had
provoked; " the poor old lady brightened up a little later and went on
with her tale-- ' There's one thing, Mistur Allen, as I can say, ay, an'
I ought to say, the Lord's been pretty well on my side this winter for
greens.'"

"And I daresay she had clean forgot that the Almighty refused Cain's
offering of vegetables," remarked Mainwaring drily, while Mallam's stout
frame shook with suppressed mirth and Crapezzo's eyes gleamed humorously
behind his spectacles.

"The Intendente of one of our nobles," observed the latter, " would make
a good pair with that English woman. He wrote on one occasion to his
master informing him that a number of his pigs had succumbed to disease:
sono andati in Paradiso-- ' gone to Paradise ' was his succinct way of
putting it."

"A sense of humour is positively essential to balance the enormous
output of the normal imaginative faculty," remarked the baronet. "If
that be missing --" an expressive gesture conveyed his meaning and
concluded the sentence.

"Yet without the imaginative faculty we should have no humour," objected
Mallam.

"Yes, and what lovely things, what priceless gifts we owe to
Imagination!" pleaded the rector; " what would life be without its
poets--its--"

"Who but the poet," quoted Mainwaring, " was it that first framed gods
for us, that exalted us to them and brought them down to us?"

But Merehaven ignoring both Mainwaring and Wilhelm Meister and
addressing himself particularly to the Italian said, "Of course you
know, Dottore, that one of our minor poets, Keble by name, gave a course
of lectures about fifty years ago in connection with the Chair of Poetry
at Oxford, Di Poeticoe vi Medicae--the healing power of poetry?"

"I've not had the pleasure of reading them Reverendissimo but I will
confess to having recited the poetry of my own tongue to patients in
delirium with most satisfactory results."

"Ah, your language is so musical," said Mainwaring, and the Canon
ventured, "Wasn't it Joubert who said that poets have a hundred times
more good sense than philosophers: that in seeking the beautiful they
find more truths than philosophers do in seeking the true?"

"Undoubtedly he and you are right, sir," returned Crapezzo; " the seers
are in truth the saviours of the world."

"Yes, but what a lot of quacks there are sheltering beneath the seers'
mantle!" said Mallam.

"Ay, and how many more under a doctor's greatcoat," laughed Bevingham
slily; " why, half the diseases of the world are imaginary ones, one
half imagined by you doctors (pardon!) the other half by the patients
themselves."

"Haven't you a case or two in point, Squire?" enquired the baronet,
while the Canon asked the dottore if it were not true that the poets had
discovered ' suggestion ' the influence of mind upon disease--long before
the medical faculty had recognised or at least adopted it.

"We are acknowledged to be a very conservative body you know, Canon,"
said Mallam, jokingly, and Crapezzo added, "Slow, very slow to believe
all that the seers have told us."

Bennett entering with coffee the party divided, Bevingham and the two
doctors leaving the Canon and Mainwaring to talk over the many
happenings of mutual interest since their last long ago meeting.

CHAPTER IV

The volcanic forces of life lie hidden deep down in the soul's unknown
and unsuspected cauldron. William J. Locke. "AND what did you think of
Bea, Isobel?" Helena Bevingham, her husband the Squire, and Miss Barton
were seated at breakfast in the oak-panelled dining-room of Bevingham
Priory, the morning after the storm, and this was the first opportunity
the ladies had had of exchanging notes anent the dinner-party at
Monthurst Vicarage.

"Oh, do you know," cried the girl, her lovely face aglow with generous
ardour, " she is just like Julian's wife in ' The Golden Supper.' You
remember the lines?" -- "Yet when I saw her, those dark eyes of hers, Oh,
such dark eyes! And not her eyes alone But all from thence to where she
touched on earth' For such a craziness as Julian's looked No less than
one divine apology."

"What a sentimental child you are!" said Helena, though her face
reflected the pleasure she experienced at the girl's whole-hearted
admiration of her sister.

"You see I'd heard so much about Mrs Brinsfield I had a dreadful fear I
might be disappointed in her. When I was lamenting a short time back to
Howard that I had never yet met your sister, he put a photograph before
me of the head of Michael-Angelo's 'Night' and said, 'There she is, now
you've seen her! '"

"Like Night?" interposed the Squire in slow puzzled tones, his broad
face rising above yesterday's "Times " like some jovial sun over the
face of a grandfather's clock. "Ah, I see," he continued, " a bird of
prey, a night-hawk, a blinking owl. What a libel! "

"Oh, isn't he tiresome, Helena? I really wonder sometimes however you
manage to put up with him! Let me! You know I am his very own cousin!"

A minute later the Squire's ears were tingling, and Isobel's ivory
cheeks were aflame as, after administering " the only cure " for "
tiresome boys," she resumed her seat.

"Let's hope that will keep him quiet for a time," said Helena tolerantly
(she wouldn't have had her husband other than he was for worlds). "Yes,
Bea certainly has the same graceful curve of the head and something
perhaps of the mystery of Angelo's ' Night.'"

"Oh, but it is a night in which the stars are shining," cried the girl
impulsively. "Those dark eyes of hers, oh, such dark eyes," she quoted
once more; "And that indescribable look of brooding tenderness, as
though she would take all suffering and weak things to her heart and
give them comfort."

"What a child you are, Isobel! But Bea is like night, God's night, I
mean," pursued the speaker, as she thoughtfully cracked an egg, " she is
always ready to hide everyone's faults. Poor Bea! Papa would be often
quite angry with her when we were girls together for what he called her
' inveterate habit ' of making excuses for everybody except herself. He
would insist, I remember, that it is as wrong to make black out to be
white, as to say white is black."

"Oh, she would have a good word for everybody, I'm sure," agreed the
girl. "And to see her with her children! That was lovely. She certainly
doesn't spoil them, and they looked up at her during the storm as at a
Madonna. They weren't a bit afraid of the thunder; actually little Eva
begged her Mummy to carry her to the window that she might see God ride
by on a thundercloud!"

But at this moment Mrs Rupert Mitchell, widow of an Oxford Fellow, Miss
Barton's fellow-guest at the Priory and Helena's one-time school chum,
entered the room with profuse apologies for being late.

"Ah, you should have trusted yourself with me last night," observed the
Squire as he put aside the local "Weekly " which had occupied his
attention ever since Isobel had boxed his ears. "You missed a very
pleasant time I can assure you."

"Oh, I couldn't have run the risk of a storm in the open," returned
Gertrude Mitchell, with a shrug of her plump shoulders: "No, I always
follow Dr. Brewer's advice (Brewer's Guide to Science, you remember,
Helena?) as to how to act in a storm. ' Get to bed,' he says, ' after
pulling your bedstead as nearly as possible into the middle of the room
and then --"

A general burst of laughter greeted this announcement which the Squire
followed up with the remark:

"Yes, you missed a most enjoyable evening. Mallam brought an extremely
nice man, an Italian, one of the chaps over for the Medical Congress. He
proved a delightful after-dinner talker."

Then, letting his gaze fall on the page of "The Chesterdoge Weekly
Receptacle " open before him, Bevingham exclaimed, "Ah, and he's
evidently something big as a medico, for I see he read a paper at the
Congress yesterday on ' Some Aspects of the Imaginative Faculty,' yet
neither he nor Mallam made the slightest reference to it."

"The imaginative faculty?" echoed Mrs Mitchell; that was Rupert's pet
subject. He insisted in season and sometimes out of season that mankind
owed everything good, bad, useful or poetic to that faculty. He called
it a sixth sense and of more importance than all the other five put
together. I remember one of his phrases was ' the feeding bottle of the
baby and the faith that sustains the dying are alike the product of
imagination.'"

"Well," continued the Squire, "I see this speech is reported as an
epoch-making one."

"Ah," sighed the widow, " if Rupert hadn't been a Fellow he would have
published a book, that, so he said, would have done away with religious
animosities for ever."

"Oh, la, la," cried Helena, in mock doleful tones, ignoring the
reference to the late Rupert Mitchell, D.D., " to think of our having
missed a real live lion, Gertrude, rare as they are in this
neighbourhood! Let's see this speech, Harold."

And the speaker extended her right hand for the newspaper.

"Oh, the slow-going Chesterdoge editor is holding it over through ' lack
of space ' till next week, but you are sure to find it in ' The
Telegraph.' We shall get that when I run Isobel to the station."

"He must be a good English scholar," remarked Gertrude Mitchell, " to
make himself understood by an audience two-thirds English."

"Why he speaks it like a native," said Isobel. "Indeed, he seemed to me
more English than Italian until he sang to us in the drawing-room. Then
you would have set him down as an Italian professional singer."

"Send Burton off on your motor-cycle to Mallam at once, Harold, and say
I won't speak to him again if he doesn't bring this lion (I didn't catch
his name) in to dine with us this evening," and Helena manifested every
sign of impatience.

"No good, my dear," returned her husband, slowly wagging his head from
side to side. "I did invite the two of them, but Dottor Crapezzo (that's
the lion's name) was to leave Burybridge en route for Italy at eight
this morning, and now it's after nine."

"Anxious to get back to his wife, I suppose," murmured the widow.

"I know nothing about that," rejoined Bevingham. "He made no reference
of the kind and whether he's married or single I haven't the ghost of a
notion."

"I can tell you I found it very jolly being the only lady guest,"
remarked Isobel, mischievously desiring to increase the chagrin of the
absentees from the vicarage dinner-party. "Wasn't their rendering of ' I
would that my love ' superb, Harold? I wouldn't have missed it for
anything."

"Whose rendering?" queried Helena in hasty tones.

"Why, your sister's and the Dottore's," returned the girl, delighted at
the sensation she was producing.

"Bea singing duets with an Italian, and a stranger at that!" And Helena
spoke as if she were combatting a slander.

"Well, why not?" returned Isobel. "He begged her to do so and she
couldn't well refuse, could she? He said he should never sing it again
without thinking of her. He really was quite charmed with her, but no
wonder,"

"Rubbish, rubbish, my good child," interrupted Helena, "Italians are not
like your slow-going Germans and never mean one-half they say."

"What age might this paragon be?" enquired Gertrude in sedate tones,
addressing herself to no one in particular.

"Forty-five if a day," returned the girl emphatically.

"Forty-five?" echoed the Squire, looking up from "The Cbesterdoge
Receptacle " in which for the past few minutes he had been absorbed; "
what a poor judge you must be, Bel. I shouldn't give him a day over
thirty-three, and I shouldn't be surprised to hear he was younger. A
handsome chap too with dark brown eyes that look you squarely in the
face."

"But through spectacles," added his cousin.

"Well, storm or no storm," remarked Helena, as she turned to her chum
with simulated annoyance, "I'll go to Bea's next dinner-party if only to
serve as a counter-attraction."

"But what was the Vicar doing all this time?" said Mrs Mitchell. "I
can't understand his sitting quietly down while a foreigner evinced even
a mild admiration for Bea. Wliat would he be doing, I ask?"

"Well, that I can't say," was the Squire's disconcerting reply.

"Seriously though, I was awfully disappointed not to go last, night,"
continued the widow. "I had such a wish to see the two love-birds at
home."

"Then you lost nothing by remaining here," observed Bevingham drily.

"What?" exclaimed the lady, scepticism in her tones as she poised in air
the marmalade spoon she at the moment held in her hand.

"Ask me another, Mrs Mitchell," returned the Squire meekly.

"Whatever does he mean?" said the widow, turning her pretty perplexed
face towards Helena.

"He means," interposed Isobel, in severe tones, and shooting a glance
intended to be "withering" at the offending " he," "that Mr Brinsfield
wasn't able to meet his guests last night, and so ' he ' had to play the
part of host."

"Whew!" and a distinct whistle sounded through the room, followed by the
fair whistler's speaking silence.

"Well, what would you?" argued the Squire as he busied himself in
gathering up his papers. "Is it conceivable that the Hon and Rev.
Reginald Brinsfield, M.A., should think of such sublunary matters as the
feasting of guests when the opportunity is afforded him of revealing to
packed audiences the wonderful messages and manifestations they would
receive from the unseen if they supported his new Society. It seems
though," continued the Squire, his eyes again upon the newspaper while
those of the women sought each others, " that Naldo didn't have it all
his own way yesterday. He was not only heckled at both meetings but
after the first a section of the public insisted on burning him in
effigy--with his Society's pamphlets in huge numbers to feed the flames."

"Oh dear, oh dear!" exclaimed Helena.

"But what does it all mean?" asked Isobel, a puzzled look on her face
while Mrs Mitchell said, "I'd no idea he was a psychic."

"Or rather," retorted Bevingham, " he thinks himself one, and I, if he
spells the word as I do with five letters i - d - i - o - t, I'll agree
he is one!"

"Oh, be fair, Harold," cried Helena, reproof in her tones; " no one can
deny Reginald's sincerity, or that he thoroughly believes that he and
his Society are on the eve of great discoveries."

"Great tom-fooleries!" was the rough rejoinder, " as if there are not
enough realities to cope with without tilting at invisible and imaginary
ones. By the by, Isobel," and the Squire turned to his young cousin, "
if you want to catch the 12, you must be in the hall at 11.30 sharp. And
you're coming too, Helena, and you too, Mrs Mitchell? That's right. Now
I'm off," and picking up his letters the big fellow with the big heart
to match strode out of the room and upstairs to the nursery, humming:
"The only thing old people ought to know best Is that young people ought
to know better."

"How long is it since your brother-in-law took up with spiritualism,
Helena?" enquired the widow. "I wonder you never named it in your
letters."

"Oh, I knew when you got back from New York you would hear of it soon
enough, even if you didn't come across his name in the American journals
of the Psychists. But it's only within the last month or so that he has
come to the front as an out and out believer in the importance of
psychic phenomena and he now does actually anticipate that very shortly
the barrier dividing the dead from the living will fall before the
repeated assaults of himself and this new society."

"What a pity he associates himself with that sort of thing," and
Gertrude Mitchell's tones betokened commiseration. "Rupert classed the
whole business of manifestations and revelations at those hole and
corner meetings called seances, as a put up job, pure trickery, or the
evolutions of an excited, highly sensitised imagination. And does your
sister believe in and assist at these occult performances?"

"Gracious heavens, no!" was Mrs Bevingham's instant response, and Isobel
looked up from the newspaper with interest and apprehension depicted on
her face.

"Oh, poor Bea!" was the widow's expressive comment while Isobel felt
vaguely uneasy, and recalling the fact that her own sister gave her
husband. Sir Howard Cressingham, no sympathy in his engrossment in Art
she feared that her " adorable Mrs Brinsfield's " life could not be so
ideally happy as she had pictured it. She had long since dismissed as
merely " tiresome " the lack of sympathy rliown by Victoria, but the
case of the Brinsfields took on an almost tragic significance as she
listened to the talk of her elders.

"They made a handsome couple, I remember," said Mrs Mitchell
thoughtfully.

"Yes," returned Helena, " and they've always been such lovers. It will
break Bea's heart if she finds herself unable to work with and for
Naldo. He is insistent that she should associate herself personally with
the movement, form ladies' committees, preside at seances of women, and
so on. I feel convinced he will never persuade her, she seems to loathe
the whole business."

"He'll find another woman ready and waiting to do all he asks from his
wife, and then there'll be the old gentleman to pay!" remarked Mrs
Mitchell. "Well, it's a tricky matter," she continued, as she took from
a vase in front of her a velvety crimson rose and placed it in the folds
of lace on her bosom, " very tricky," she repeated, " and it should act
as a warning to you my dear Miss Barton. As you see, an unexpected
situation may, and very frequently does turn up in married life, and if
you are not prepared to sink your identity in that of your husband,
well, you will be wise to avoid the so-called ' holy estate of
matrimony.'"

"Do stop it, Gertrude, you'll give Isobel the blues. I'm sure you were
happy enough as a wife, and I wouldn't be single for anything you could
offer me."

"But what would you do if you were your sister, Mrs Bevingham, or if
Harold became a spiritualist?" queried the girl.

"Thank heaven he'll never be one," was Mrs Bevingham's energetic
rejoinder.

"Oh, how difficult life is!" was Isobel's comment, and then she turned
to her hostess and asked, "How did Mr Brinsfield get in touch with these
people? I thought they were not allowed in the Church of England?"

"Oh, as for that, the Church is said to be honeycombed with psychists.
In fact it was a clergyman, a friend, I believe, of the clergyman who
tried to convince the public, as you may remember Gertrude, that he had
been able to secure photographs of ' spirits ' who made a convert of
Reginald. He went over to Achill last March to see what sort of
accommodation a married servant of Bea's and mine, when we were girls at
home, could offer for the summer, and this man, whose name I forget, was
his fellow-traveller during the whole long journey, showed him
spirit-photographs and I know not what besides."

"Spirit-photographs?" echoed the widow; " a contradiction in terms
surely? If spirit is spirit solely because it isn't matter how can it be
possible to reproduce? My own belief is," she continued, " that these
people are seeking the impossible, a will o' the wisp, the following of
which will sooner or later land them in imbecility or the madhouse. But
what does the paper say about yesterday's affair, Miss Barton? If it's
not a long account please read it aloud."

"No, it is not very long," was the reply, " here it is. ' Yesterday,
what is colloquially known as "Sleepy Chesterdoge " was unusually wide
awake for some hours; and the fact that a cathedral city and somnolence
have come to be regarded as synonyms, it is the more remarkable that the
call to activity should have been given to that portion of the community
credited with the greatest unwillingness to originate any movement. That
the Church has many devotees of the seance is indisputable but, judging
from yesterday's questionable activities on the Common-lands very few of
them can be numbered as Chesterdogians. Indeed we understand that
strangers composed the larger section of the audiences assembled to
listen to the advocate of ' The Reverent Research into the Unseen
Society.'

"' Much water has flowed under the bridge ' since Shakespeare launched
his famous check to cheap scepticism, and though many of the things '
dreamt of in the philosophy ' of his day have become world-accepted
facts in ours, the mystery attaching to the passing of the flame of
life, the spirit, from its house the body, remains as deep, as
unfathomable as ever. The Hon and Rev. R. Brinsfield and his
fellow-thinkers judge otherwise and regard themselves as the pioneers
into that hitherto dark country from whose bourne there has been so far
no authenticated return. In-so-far as he and they are sincere and keep
an open mind we deprecate anything in the nature of persecution.

"Certainly he and his critics, whether favourable or hostile, would have
been more usefully employed had they been present at the final meeting
of the B.M.C held yesterday afternoon in the Town Hall. Before a
distinguished audience of medicoes and scientists what we have heard
described as an ' epoch-making speech ' was then delivered by a young
Italian doctor, named Crapezzo, and we much regret that lack of space
prevents our giving a full report of it this week. His subject, "Some
Aspects of the Imaginative faculty and its influence on the physical and
spiritual life of man," has a special bearing not indeed solely on
spiritualism, but upon faiths in general which should make its
appearance at this juncture of peculiar value."

"That's all," remarked the reader as she put down the paper.

"Well," remarked the widow, " if I were Bea, I should let him (your
brother-in-law) go his own way; the more you oppose men the more
pig-headed they become, at least that's my experience. I found if I gave
Rupert ' his head ' he really became quite indifferent as to which road
he took. But then I've always had any opinions I happen to possess made
up on the spiral wire system, so as to yield easily on the slightest
pressure and recover themselves directly the pressure's removed. Don't
look shocked, Miss Barton, I'm a very selfish creature, one of the '
peace at any price ' women."

But Isobel did not respond to this careless gaiety. Perchance her almost
complete absorption for the past three years in the study of music at
Dresden, combined with a passionate desire to become something of a
virtuoso in the art, had left her mind fallow on many questions which
the twentieth century maiden has usually discussed and settled soon
after entering her teens. And Love, the greatest of all teachers, had
not yet gained an entrance to her heart.

Mrs Mitchell, her attention drawn by the silence of the bright young
creature opposite, now crumbling her bread, with downcast eyes,
exclaimed in cheery tones:

"Don't take these matters to heart, child! After all's said and done
it's the selfish folk like myself that have the best of things."

"I thought it was just the happiest and most lovely thing to be
unselfish," was the girl's unexpected rejoinder.

"Oh, you're quite wrong there, Miss Barton," declared the widow,
conviction in her voice; " the ingratitude the self-sacrificing have to
put up with, to say nothing of the misunderstandings"--and the speaker
threw up her shapely hands--" well, thank goodness, I'm not made that
way!"

"You don't mean half you say, Gertrude, and why you make yourself out to
be such a cynic is quite beyond me," said Helena reprovingly. Then as
her glance fell on the clock she exclaimed, "Just look at the time! Have
you all your things ready, Bel?"

"No, indeed, I haven't even told Mowbray what I'm travelling in. Ha!
here's the post!" and the girl sprang forward to meet the Squire as he
entered the room.

"I expect that," he said teasingly, as he handed her a letter, " will
inform you that the trip to Florence is off; Victoria will say the
weather's too hot."

"You're wrong, Harold. I've orders to be at Waterloo on Saturday at
10.30 and," continued the girl, still reading her missive, "Howard says
Mr Simcot is ill and only Mr Marston will be going from the school.
Well, I'm glad, we shall be more cosy."

"Don't go falling in love with the young man," said Gertrude Mitchell
warningly, " her ladyship won't permit flirtations I feel sure."

"No fear of anything of that kind," was the laughing rejoinder; "I
believe he's afraid of me, seems too deep in in thought to be aware of
my existence even. And that reminds me, Helena, they were talking a lot
about Mr Marston at Monthurst last night. I'd no idea --"

But whatever Isobel intended to say was cut short by her hostess's
interjecting, "Run along and pack--or you'll be late as sure as fate!"

CHAPTER V

Poison may ooze from beautiful plants, deadly grief from dearest
reminiscences. Landor.

WHEN Reginald Brinsfield entered into possession of the living of
Monthurst three years before the opening of this story, he and his wife
issued invitations to all the parishioners without respect of persons to
meet them, and also each other, in the Vicarage grounds. The result was
a big gathering from which none of the villagers who could possibly
attend were absent, save Mrs Bishop, the tenant of pretty Rose Cottage
at the foot of the hill up which Monthurst straggled with picturesquely
unequal steps. Her abstention might have been unavoidable, but her
determination to keep the vicarage folks at arms length was unmistakable
when on Brinsfield calling later at the cottage, accompanied by
Beatrice, he and she were not only not admitted but politely requested
not to call again.

The reason for this unlooked-for and unmerited rebuff Bennett
incidentally detailed to Mainwaring as he drove him to the station in
the Vicarage dog-cart the morning after the dinner-party. As they passed
and saluted Jemima Gossall at her shop-door the baronet felt an
unaccountably strong impulse to learn what the man beside him could say
of " they Bishopses," and it was in response to a leading question that
Bennett replied,

"Aw, they're right enough, Sir Edward, though they do, leastwise the
widow do keep theirselves to theirselves. And," he continued judicially,
"I don't blame her neither. "You see," and the speaker dropped his voice
and leaned towards his companion, " when Missus Bishop come here
first--that is about ten years ago-- she brought a boy of seven or eight
with her. Well, some folk, I won't name names--set it about as the boy
was her own--a love-child--you understand?"

The baronet bowed and awaited the rest of the story.

"Then old passon, him as was here afore your cousin came, called on her
and insisted on her giving him the names of the boy's father and
mother."

"Infernal cheek!" interjected the other.

"Well, that got her monkey up, as we say, and she ordered him off her
premises and hasn't been inside the church since, nor her step-daughter
neither. But that happened nigh ten years ago, and there should be
forgive and forget on both sides, eh, sir?"

"Certainly, Bennett; and is that all you know of the ladies?"

"Well, it was put about as the widow and the girl came first from
Ireland to Hurst'ick an' then on here, the widow, I mean. There was talk
as she was an Irish clergyman's daughter, and widow of an Irish chemist.
It's certain though as she hadn't too much money or she wouldn't have
taken that boy to board from the Hurst'ick guardians."

"And what's become of the boy?" asked Mainwaring.

"Aw, he's a nice upstanding fellow now, I'm told, and must be nigh on
twenty if not more. You've heard p'raps as he hadn't been here more than
twelve months when some great man among the gentry down at Chesterdoge
came and took him away to learn marble-working; and they say he does it
as well as the best of 'em now. You know--figger-making and all that. It
was him they were talking of at dinner last night."

" Ah, is that so? And does he come over often to see the lady who first
befriended him?"

" Well, no," replied Bennett doubtfully, " but," he continued with
animation and another stoop of his body, "I believe, though mind you I
wouldn't say it to anyone in Monthurst, as he and Miss Bishop are
sweethearting!"

" I shouldn't wonder if you're not right," returned the baronet,
secretly amused. "And has she lived here always?

Bennett shook his head.

" If my mem'ry serves me right, she was left at Hurst'ick wi' some
genteel single invalid lady for her eddication. I believe the lady was a
cripple but very knowledgeable. The child would come here for her
holidays now and again. Then 'twas said she stopped on at Hurst'ick to
learn to be a milliner when she was sixteen--looked as if the widow
didn't want too much of her company--but this year she's been at
Monthurst for longer than I ever know'd her before. Hurst'ick didn't
suit her and there was talk of her being ill with a cough there. She's a
nice quiet sort of girl, but not over strong, I fancy."

"Rather a dull life for such a good-looking girl," said Mainwaring
unthinkingly and unwisely.

"Well, yes," agreed the other, " 'specially as they don't visit
anywhere; they're just two to themselves," be concluded.

"Of course Mrs Brinsfield calls on them?" said the baronet mendaciously.

"I shouldn't like to say yea or nay to that, not but what she'd like to
go, and also have the two up to t'vickridge, but," and the speaker's
manner as he raised his whip to flick away the teasing flies at the
horse's head gave point to Jemima Gossall's strictures that there was "
something myster'ous " about " they Bishopses, summat to hide you
understand."

Beatrice, who had early learnt of the tactless visit of Mr Jenkins,
silently sympathised with a nature which rebelled against such
treatment, but she found it difficult to understand why she and Naldo
should be denied access to Rose Cottage. To her it seemed grossly unfair
to visit the discourtesies of one Vicar upon his successor--yet it was
rumoured in the village that since the coming of the Brins - fields Mrs
Bishop had held herself more aloof, if that were possible, than before.
Certainly she made no response to the many efforts exerted to break down
the barriers to ordinary intercourse with her fellows she had herself
set up. Something tragic in the long-ago past, Beatrice reasoned, must
have happened to sour and harden a woman who could never be classed as
either illiterate or vulgar.

But had anyone hinted that these tragic happenings of the past could in
any remote degree affect the future of the Brinsfields, Beatrice would
have pooh-poohed the suggestion--a woman neither she nor Naldo had ever
seen or heard of until they came to Monthurst!

Three years passed and just as Beatrice had given up all hope of getting
in touch with the self-contained inmate of Rose Cottage her
step-daughter returned to the village in order, it was rumoured, to
recoup after a slight breakdown, and Beatrice was at once attracted to
the girl. Though they never met except in the village street or on the
high road, the elder woman quickly convinced herself that the younger
stood sorely in need of a friend of her own sex, not only because Mrs
Bishop appeared so unsympathetic, but because Hetty evidently possessed
a highly secretive, imaginative temperament, which, unless wisely
directed, might lead her into folly or trouble. Quite recently too she
fancied she could detect appeal (almost pathetic) in those forget-me-not
eyes, and it worried her; for every invitation she had proffered the
girl for a quiet chat at the vicarage, or even a walk, was always firmly
though politely declined on some more or less flimsy pretext. Such
behaviour puzzled and distressed, but failed to annoy, Beatrice, whose
patience and tenderness were only equalled by her optimism, her large
faith in time. Latterly, though, matters of supreme personal importance
had claimed her unceasing attention and almost quenched her interest in
"they Bishopses."

CHAPTER VI

Ah, mon Dieu! How the mind shrinks by loving! It is true that the soul
does not, but what can one do with a soul? Mdlle. de L'Epinasse.

NEVER during their seven years of married life had Beatrice conceived
the possibility for one brief moment that a day would ever arrive when
she would decline to work whole-heartedly with her husband. Yet this
undreamed of, distressing thing had happened! When he first told her of
his encounter with the Irish cleric, and their joint determination to
establish a society with the object of discovering a " via media "
between bodied and disembodied spirits, she frankly expressed her
detestation of spiritualism in any shape or form, and begged, nay,
implored him to have nothing whatever to do with it. For the first time
in their married life he turned a deaf ear to her advice, urging her to
put away whatever prejudices she had unconsciously encouraged; and with
grave, almost convincing, tenderness had assured her this thing was of
God.

It was useless for Beatrice to bring forward arguments from scientific
sources, the dishonesty of mediums, or passages from Holy Writ
forbidding the search for familiar spirits. The latter argument,
Brinsfield declared, applied to a very different state of things. His
object, and that of his fellow-thinkers, was not of a materialistic
order, but if, and when, effected would put the finishing stroke to the
abolition of death, and, by permitting the living to communicate with
those already in the Great Beyond, would assist mankind to live more
worthily and die without fear.

"If only you would attend one seance, Bea," the man would plead, " you
would be convinced, I am sure, of the presence there of forces anxious
to reveal themselves, urging us even to persevere in our endeavours to
get in touch with them, that they may be able to contribute the comfort,
the consolation, yes, and also the incentive and encouragement humanity
needs so sorely for its passage across life's stage."

Argument, however, is a rarely successful means to conquer or combat a
mind made up, and husband and wife have now to face the fact that on the
question of Spiritualism they are never likely to be united.

Already, upon more than one occasion, putting pressure on herself,
Beatrice had reached the study-door, prepared, determined as she thought
to offer the aid of her pen or tongue on behalf of " the Reverent
Research into the Unseen Society," only to find the offer frozen on her
lips, or rather substituted by words unconnected with the matter, and to
which she had no previous intention of giving utterance.

Surely this hidden force within her which could, and did, dominate and
overpower her mighty love and desire to help her husband was the true
Unseen Presence, of which man could never discover the genesis nor the
wondrous possibilities, however keen or extended the search. She, who,
as Gertrude Mitchell had once epitomised her, " is made so that she is
as sorry for the early worm as she is for the potted plant, the roots of
which another worm is devouring," was amazed at the strength of the
opposition, which asserted its presence with ever-increasing power.

In her teens she had been taught to regard this peering into the
unknown, these deliberate attempts to pierce the thick veil, which
surely God Himself had hung between the living and the dead, not merely
as heathenish, but even vulgar, and perhaps indecent. "What the Almighty
throughout the ages had hidden let not man attempt to reveal " had been
the dictum of her governess, and though one might with truth assert that
telegraphy, electricity and a hundred other desirable and hidden things
had been revealed only by diligent search, her early impressions of
spiritualism were not displaced even at the call of the deep and
much-prized affection of her husband. It was a sad intricate, a tricky
puzzle, time had brought her to unravel and she could see no way by
which it could be solved. The dear daily duties she had shared with
Naldo were already losing much of their sweet savour, he was, perhaps,
insensibly but surely drawing apart from her and withholding his
confidences, for what pleasure for him to tell or she to hear of matters
which each regarded from view points so opposite? And this did not
outline the extent of the mischief as Beatrice was not slow to
recognise. If his confidences were withheld from her they would be, and
quite probably were now shared with others, women too, women who would
not scruple to feign interest and sympathy in order to occupy the place
by his side which was hers and hers only.

Such a woman lived at the Manor House, Monthurst, as Beatrice knew well,
and doubtless there were others everywhere he went who, declaring
themselves believers in his gospel were gradually ousting her from his
heart. He seemed impervious to all appeals from unbelievers, treating
his grandfather's sarcasm with a tolerant silence very annoying to the
old Earl, who poured unstinted ridicule upon the young man's " vicious
pretensions."

"In what particulars I ask you, Beatrice," he would say whenever the
matter was named between them, " does Reginald's plan of action vary or
improve upon, let us say, that of the Witch of Endor, who called up
Samuel? Has he discovered any royal, any infallible, method of getting
in touch with his ancestors? If so there is of course ' money ' in it.
But are not his ways as the ways of the myriad searchers of countless
past ages into the hidden paths of Death? Isn't the cult of spiritualism
as old as Death itself? And what are Reginald's prospects of succeeding
where so many better equipped have failed?"

Those questions still remained unanswered while the infinitely more
important one for Beatrice clamoured hourly for solution, "How can two
live together except they be agreed?" Was this difference of opinion to
prove the little rift within the lute that by and by would surely if
slowly stifle the joyous song of life for her and Naldo? Such a trifle
to produce so hideous a discord! At all costs that possibility must be
avoided. So decided Beatrice Brinsfield as seated in her husband's study
after the departure of Sir Edward Mainwaring she reviewed for the
hundredth time the position created by her husband's open advocacy of
spiritualism and her own unconquerable antipathy to it. From time to
time she glanced at the letter she had received from him at breakfast.
He referred almost jokingly to the effigy-burning; greatly regretted
that the non-arrival until 5 P.M of the medium, Madame Stenograph, had
prevented his return the previous evening. Some notable opponents of
Spiritualism had wired their intention of attending the postponed
seance, therefore it had been imperative for him to remain. Further, he
would return home by the 5 P.M on Saturday. "Would she have his bicycle
awaiting him at Burybridge Station? The morning breeze, deliciously
fresh after last night's storm, played lightly upon her cheeks, bringing
with it the mingled scents of syringa, spicy pinks and red and white
roses. These mute tokens of the beauty of her surroundings were suddenly
made vocal by the happy chatter and laughter of her little ones whom
Nurse Armstrong was taking for an early constitutional.

"Oh, some way must be found," exclaimed the proud mother under her
breath as she waved her hand to the pigeon pair. "I want to help him,
yet, loathing this work of spirit-seeking as I do, what a hypocrite I
should be to identify myself in any way with it."

And swayed now by her deep wifely affection and anon by the invisible
force which dominated even that she barely repressed a groan as she
exclaimed, "Oh, life, you were so lovable, so beautiful until this
trouble came! If only I knew what to do, if only I could overcome my
repugnance!"

Then, picking up the "Burybridge Oracle " in which she had already found
and read an account of the effigy-burning, she idly scanned it for other
news. To her unbounded astonishment she presently caught sight of Dottor
Crapezzo's name and eagerly read as follows: "By a coincidence unique,
some would say uncanny, evidence for and of things that are unseen was
greatly to the fore yesterday in Chesterdoge. At the final sitting of
the I.M.C a young Italian doctor, Crapezzo by name, read a most
interesting and exhaustive paper on ' Some aspects of the imaginative
faculty and its influence on the physical and spiritual life of man ';
while at almost the same hour the Hon. and Rev. B. Brinsfield, M.A.,
heir-presumptive to the Earl of Brudenham, conducted the second of two
meetings convened to set forth the need and aims of a newly-formed
organisation to be known as ' The Reverent Research into the Unseen
Society.' The two men, avowedly believers in and exponents of the
presence of the hidden, the occult, approached their several standpoints
with marked reverence and unmistakeable sincerity, yet were as widely
opposed in their teaching and ultimate as are sun and earth asunder.
Both were united though in sympathetic consideration of (to quote Sir
Thomas Browne's admirable phrase) ' that immortal essence, that
translated divinity, that colony of God, the Soul.'"

The Italian's remarks were confined to the embodied, the Englishman's to
the disembodied spirit, and while the former did not deny the reality of
any of the phenomena vouched for by psychists he maintained that one and
all of them are simply variations of the wonderful effects produced or
producible by man's unseen forces in connection with the unseen forces
under the control of Nature. In referring to the action of the Etheric
waves upon the various members of " that colony of God " he instanced
the clearness with which persons deprived of sight were able to
visualise whatever was brought to their notice through the ear; the
frequency too with which deaf people, unaware by hearing or sight, would
refer to the topic under discussion by their companions, provoking the
remark " we were just speaking of that." Facts such as these, he
averred, pointed to the possible existence of another path to the brain
than the high roads of the visible eye and ear, and, further sifting by
scientists of these matters would probably result in entirely
eliminating the supernatural agency attributed to many, now regarded as
inexplicable happenings. Spiritualism he classed with all religious
faiths, whether heathen or Christian, as alike the product of the
Imaginative Faculty.

And it was with no uncertain voice the Italian declared his conviction
that by no manner of searching shall we discover the secret wooing and
mating of those unseen forces in the grey matter of the human brain
which result in individuality, beauty or ugliness of spirit, produce now
the poet's dream, the sculptor's masterpiece, the faith of the Saint,
the ravings of the political fanatic, the endurance of the martyr, the
life beautiful, the life marred; in fine, the working, the machinery of
the Imaginative Faculty. Evidently he is as keen a Transcendentalist as
Emil du Bois Raymond.

The reverend gentleman in addition to the stock arguments of
spiritualists, urged upon his hearers the vital importance at this
period of scientific attainment of increasing and intensifying our
psychic power (?) by the multiplication of circles and seances with the
object of destroying the barriers raised by Death.

"What," he exclaimed with the ardour of a pioneer, " is to prevent the
earnest, well-equipped seeker from pursuing the flame, the spirit, the
ego, the ' you,' the ' I,' when Death snatches it from the body?" Echo
answers "What?"

We wonder whether he has ever realised that every hnman being, every
animal, every plant is a persistent manifestant of " unseen " powers,
and that the brain of the medium is acknowledged to be weak, or at least
abnormal. Yet to declaim spiritualism and at the same time accept a
faith revealed by angels appears to us illogical and even grossly
inconsistent."

Here Beatrice let the newspaper fall to the ground, her unseeing eyes
fixed on the uplands beyond the vicarage grounds, now a patchwork of
shaded green from that of ripening grasses to the tender hue of the
springing corn, her mind grappling with the significance of the writer's
closing remark.

But as she realised all that it implied she dismissed it as unworthy of
serious consideration, regarding its premises as false, or at least
unproven. Yet what if they represented Naldo's convictions? The thought
gave her pause, and with her usual fairness she felt it claimed her
sympathetic consideration. She could not, however, pursue the matter
further, for ten o'clock striking, her cook knocked at the door for the
day's orders.

On leaving the room she turned to say, "Oh, ma'am, I'd a'most forgot to
tell you gardener would like you to go and look at the strawberry bed,
he's there now and says the storm did it a lot of harm."

"I'll go at once," returned her mistress, glad of the prospect of
getting into the air.

"And he says, ma'am," continued the woman, " as Miss Bishop was going
along down street in all that dreadful pour-down last night, enough to
give her her death."

"Poor thing, poor thing! and she so far from strong," was the feeling
rejoinder, while the thought flashed through the speaker's mind that the
opportunity of getting in touch with the girl so long desired might
shortly present itself.

CHAPTER VII

The man who is worthy of being a leader of men will never complain of
the stupidity of his helpers, of the ingratitude of mankind, nor of the
inappreciation of the public. These things are all a part of the great
game of life. Fra Albertus.

EARLY on Saturday morning it became common knowledge throughout
Monthurst that Dick Grainger--the boy who went daily at 7 A.M to Rose
Cottage--had been sent off on his bicycle for Dr. Mallam before he could
attack any of his numerous odd jobs there. It wasn't Mrs Bishop who was
ill, for he had seen her, therefore it must be Hetty was the conclusion
naturally arrived at by those acquainted with his errand and the fact
that she had been drenched in Thursday night's thunderstorm.

"It is Dr. Mallam's day here," remarked Beatrice, when the report
reached her at the breakfast-table, " and if he is in the village this
morning he will no doubt come to us earlier than usual, so it would be
wise, Armstrong, to keep the children in."

This was an allusion to a weekly inspection by the Doctor of little Rex,
the son of the house, whose heart was not working normally, and on whose
account his mother was to sacrifice her usual holiday with the Vicar
this summer. It was afternoon when the medico arrived, and after the boy
had been examined and dismissed to the nursery Beatrice asked who was
ill at Rose Cottage.

"Tle girl there has a temperature of 101, but that is lower than it was
when I saw her this morning. The pulse too is slightly better now, and
the delirium less. Yes, I think she may pull through, but all will
depend on the next twenty-four hours. No, Mrs Bishop won't have a
nurse--she's arranged with the boy who fetched me to be at hand in case
of need--it is half-holiday with him, and by Monday the crisis will be
over. Yes, should the girl become conscious and ask for you, I'll insist
on your being allowed to see her. Certainly, I'll name your offer to Mrs
Bishop."

Then as he rose to take his leave Mallam said, "Take care of yourself,
Mrs Brinsfield, and remember there's nothing under the sun worth
worrying about. By the bye," he continued, "Doctor Crapezzo begged me to
present his kindest and most respectful regards when I saw you and say
how greatly he had enjoyed his evening here."

"Ah, doctor, why didn't you tell us he was speaking at Chesterdoge that
afternoon and on much the same topic as my husband?"

"He vowed me to keep the matter dark or he wouldn't have come. That
paper of his was grand, you must order a copy though you won't have it
for a few weeks. Yes, he does speak English well, and no wonder. He was
five years at Marlboro', and after being at a clinic in Rome, walked
Guy's for three years and at the same time studied for and took the
D.Litt at London University. No, he never referred to his parents and
whether they are living or dead or who they were I've no idea."

Then as they both reached the hall a car drove up and Beatrice
exclaimed, "Ah, here's my sister with her friend Mrs Mitchell. Don't go
yet, Doctor!"

Mallam, who had met the merry widow at dinner the previous evening, was
evidently well pleased to see her again, and as the four entered the
drawing-room the talk became animated. The visitors, it appeared, had
given the Cressingham party a " send-off " at Chesterdoge railway
station that morning, and had been much struck by Harry Marston's good
looks and bearing.

"And Helena tells me he ' never know'd a momma or a poppa.' Poor chap!"
said Mrs Mitchell.

"An aristocrat, though, to his finger-tips," added Mrs Bevingham, " and
Howard is immensely proud of him, one can see that with half an eye!"

"But not her ladyship," said Gertrude in convincing tones. "Her contempt
for him jumped even to my eyes, and I'm a most discreet observer, seeing
only what is set out to catch the eye in everybody's shop-window. I
certainly don't envy that fellow the snubs in pickle for him on this
outing."

"I suppose Victoria's afraid the handsome nobody may dare to set his
thoughts on Isobel, yet they would make an ideal couple!"

"Fie, fie, Helena!" returned the widow in mock reproof, while Mallam,
who had remained standing, enquired if the young man under discussion
was the sculptor whose font was in this year's Academy.

Upon his taking his leave the talk drifted at once to Crapezzo. What had
Bea thought of him? Had she read the wonderful article on his paper by
Ambericus in yesterday's Literary Supplement? No? Well it should be sent
to her--she would be charmed with it.

"You know," continued Mrs Bevingham, "Crapezzo is dead against
spiritualism--thinks that man's unseen forces coming in contact with
Nature's unseen forces produce all the otherwise unaccountable things
the psychists report; says that when the brain is set upon getting
anything, seeing a spirit, hearing its wings, and --"

"They don't have wings," interrupted the widow chidingly.

"Well, it's like this, Mallam was telling us last night, that whatever
you're keen to have or to see, if you only keep on thinking and thinking
about it for a good long time, and preferably in the dark, your
subconscious mind will supply it."

"Or " --again came the interruption--" if it can't get the real article it
will hoodwink you into thinking you've got it--just a condition of --"

And the speaker stopped abruptly, apparently aware for the first time
that she and her friend between them had effectually prevented their
sole listener and hostess from expressing any opinion on the subject
under discussion.

Almost at the same moment the children arrived, and five minutes later
the Vicar appeared, receiving on his entrance a warm welcome from his
wife and her guests, and a boisterous one from his little son and
daughter. He looked well and, evidently well pleased with life, accepted
the banter of the ladies with great good humour.

"Not even a hair of my head singed, nor any smell of scorching to be
detected about my clothing," he declared, "sniff one ever so
determinedly!"

Beatrice rang for tea, but Helena explaining that she and her friend had
already sampled it at two houses en route, and they must get off at once
as they were dining early, she and Mrs Mitchell made their adieux and
departed.

A quarter of an hour later husband and wife were seated at the tea-table
in the morning-room, and, the children again in the nursery, Beatrice
remarked,

"When I read about the effigy-burning this morning I thought if those
people only knew how little you would be affected by their action they
would have spared themselves the trouble and expense of such a foolish
exhibition of feeling."

"That's the most sensible criticism I've heard," returned her husband
approvingly, glad to see the flush of pleasure on his wife's cheeks at
this unexpected appreciation. In his eyes no woman in the world could
compare with her, and the very fact that she held so high a place in his
affection increased the keenness of his disappointment at her attitude
towards the work he had embraced with such ardour.

While most people regarded his advocacy of spiritualism and his avowed
belief in the imminent discovery of a via media between the living and
the dead as of very recent growth, in reality it dated much farther back
than his meeting with the Irish cleric three months ago. He had in fact
attended many seances during the previous winter, unknown to his wife or
her relatives. Aware of Bea's attitude towards the subject he had then
decided to give no inkling of his leanings until he should have
determined to stand boldly and publicly forth in defence of them. Then,
he felt convinced, Beatrice would accept the position, and smothering
her previous objections and antipathies support him nobly by every means
in her power.

But he had been mistaken, grievously mistaken. Instead of the ready help
she had hitherto unfailingly afforded him in any, even new, work, she at
once made it quite clear that he must never expect her to attend
spiritualistic meetings or seances, or even listen to his reports of
them.

This was a severe blow, for they loved each other devotedly, and each
knew from experience the happiness, the beneficent effects, of
co-operative work.

What was to be done? "What would happen if each continued to preserve
freedom of action, if both refused to give way? He cherished the wish
and was at the same time deeply ashamed of it, to have her associated
with him now in order that later on when his grandfather, the earl,
should be gathered to his fathers she, in the new dignity of a real live
Countess, would preside at the circles and seances he was hoping to
inaugurate for ladies in the coming winter. How that title, united to
her youth, beauty and charm, would operate in achieving popularity and
success for his new and greatly beloved Society!

Yet he might with equal chance of consent request Sir Howard Cressingham
to introduce into the studio of his Confraternity Pucci's figures in his
Pisan fresco La Creazione as studies of the nude!

Though he had little intuitive insight into character, he rightly hailed
his wife's remark anent the effigy-burning as a symptom of weakening on
her part, and with the laudable intention of meeting her half-way he set
out to detail in his best manner how he had overtaken Mrs Pakenham on
the high road, and how she had unexpectedly volunteered a donation of
five guineas to cover the loss of the burnt pamphlets.

"She professed to believe I should feel the effects of the fire in my
own person," he concluded, and husband and wife laughed indulgently,
though the latter was secretly annoyed.

For Mrs Pakenham's interest in spiritualism, though of much later birth
than that displayed by the Vicar, had assumed a warmth and
aggressiveness within the past two or three weeks which led his wife to
ask herself with something like alarm, "Whereunto this would grow?"

The young widow of an old and wealthy Burybridge grocer, Mrs Pakenham
had recently bought and settled down at The Manor House, Monthurst, with
the determined though unavowed object of " getting into Society." Tact,
united to hear wealth, good looks and comparative youth (she was five
years older than Beatrice) would, she felt convinced, lead to her speedy
reception by the county. As a first step towards that desired end she
decided to become the bosum friend of Mrs Brinsfield, for the latter, if
events followed their normal course, would shortly be known as the
Countess of Brudenham. Beatrice, however, had no desire for a bosom
friend other than her husband, and while offering the newcomer every
courtesy and attention, felt repulsed rather than attracted by a nature
which she found both shallow and unrefined.

Foiled in her efforts to become the intimate of the wife Barbara
Pakenham, greatly daring, determined to gain her ends by making herself
invaluable to the husband. Evidently Beatrice had no great liking for
the occult--therefore she, Barbara Pakenham, would show herself an ardent
and enthusiastic devotee, ready to spend time and cash in the promotion
of psychical research. Such conduct would presently open to her the
doors of Brudenham Castle, and meanwhile annoy the woman who had with
all courtesy denied to her an intimacy she had almost demanded.

"She won't enjoy listening to his praises of poor me," she had chuckled
to herself that afternoon, as she saw the Vicar, after he had remounted
his machine, turn at the bend of the road and wave his hand. "I must
find out where his foreign chaplaincy is," she murmured. "She, I know,
is taking the children to the West of Ireland shortly. I've got to play
my cards well! All the best people now are psychists and I don't see why
I shouldn't become a medium."

"She wants to join the committee of the R.R.U.S.," continued Brinsfield,
as he got up from the tea-table, not venturing to look at his wife as he
mentioned the forbidden topic.

"Oh, does she?" returned Beatrice lightly. She, too, rose, and slipping
her arm into her husband's drew him to the window which looked out upon
the rose-garden where the descending sun was busy deepening every tint
of the lately storm-tossed, but still fragrant, blooms.

She was about to speak when he forestalled her with the question in
tones of unusual tenderness, "Are you going to help, Bea?"

"Naldo, I got a bit of a shock yesterday, and I feel I must think things
over again--I--"

"You blessed woman!" ejaculated the man. ". Ah, you cannot guess all
that it means to have you with me in this work."

"But, Naldo, I'm not sure yet. Will you give me till October to decide.
You see," she continued more quickly, "I want to be an out and out
helper if I come in--a helper from conviction, which I know is the only
kind of helper you desire, and when I'm away at Achill (we go in about
three weeks, you know) with only Armstrong and the children, I shall be
able to think without interruption. Say yes, dear heart, and we can have
lovely days till then."

"Well, don't disappoint me in October," said Brinsfield, as he stooped
to kiss his wife's upturned appealing face.

Her evident sincerity, her whole bearing, evincing that the question
which divided them was one vital to her happiness, coupled with her
beauty and the atmosphere of benediction he always associated with her
person so sensibly affected him that he was on the brink of capitulating
with the words, "Do just as you like, dear woman, I shall find no fault
with your decision whatever it may be." But he pulled himself up
sharply, almost aghast at this suggestion of weakness on his part.

"But what shocked you yesterday?" he asked, as they both stepped into
the garden.

"Just a few words," replied Beatrice, " in a report of Dottor Crapezzo's
paper in --"

"All, that man!" interrupted the Vicar, bitterness in his voice and
contempt in his manner. "I can't think how Mallam had the effrontery,
the indecency, I might say, to bring him here knowing how totally my
views are opposed to his on all essential points."

"Well, there was no reference made in my hearing to his having spoken on
the Imaginative Faculty, or that he had contributed in any way save as a
listener at the Congress; certainly spiritualism was never mentioned,
nor the effigy-buring. But when I read a brief report of his paper in
the Oracle, I felt you ought to know he had been a guest here at
Mallam's request, and so I wrote you."

"If I hadn't been assured that he was to leave England yeaterday for the
place from whence he came," continued Brinsfield severely, " (some
obscure Italian village) I would have challenged him to a public
discussion on his contemptible, his demoralising statement, that faith,
religious faith, our Christian faith, mark you! is neither more nor less
than ' crystallized imagination.' What do you think of that?"

"Crystallized imagination?" echoed Beatrice questioningly.

"Yes, there's heresy for you, heresy pure and simple," returned the
Vicar, as he seated himself beside his wife in the rose-embowered
summer-house they had now reached. "This," he proceeded, as he drew from
his pocket a copy of "Public Thought," "will tell you how his theories
are regarded by people of discrimination."

Here Bennett appeared. Would his master see Churchwarden Dench, who had
called?

Left alone in the arbour, Beatrice unfolded the periodical and quickly
found the article her husband wished her to read. Its opening sentences
made it abundantly clear that, the writer had adopted the un-English
method of prejudicing his readers in advance, as well as pre-judging the
subject he was supposed impartially to examine.

"When we recall the fact," it commenced, " that Count Cavour's death was
hastened by the treatment of Italian physicians in his last illness, we
marvel that the I.M.C should have brought a medico from Italy to
instruct its members in therapeutical matters. But when that same
medico, one Crapezzo by name, attempts to diagnose man's spiritual
forces, we, who call ourselves Christians, are justified in adopting the
prayer of the much-tried wife of a patent-medicine-loving husband, '
From all false doctoring, God Lord deliver us!!' "

To Beatrice this style of criticism appeared trivial, inadequate, and
disinclined her to pursue it. Moreover, the news from Rose Cottage,
brought by Armstrong, proved so exceedingly grave as to banish all other
topics for the time. And it was at his wife's desire that the Vicar next
day requested the prayers of the congregation for Hepzibah Bishop, " now
lying at the point of death."

CHAPTER VIII

And, mother, when the big tears fall, (And fall God knows they may),
Tell him I died of my great love And my dying heart was gay. Rossetti.

BY midnight that June Sunday the village street was hidden away by thick
clouds, but from an upper window of Mrs Bishop's cottage, a faint light
streamed, mute token that sickness there held sway.

Its mistress, cold and hard to outsiders and even to Hetty, was seated
in a high-backed chair reading to herself from a little calf-bound
volume, though from time to time she raised her eyes and intently
regarded the figure on the bed. Presently, just before early dawn, she
noted to her infinite relief a lowering temperature, an easier
breathing, and, placing her book on the bed, she closed her eyes to pass
in review the events of the past few days. She had not been surprised
that the terrible drenching Hetty got during last Thursday's storm
should have resulted in a bad feverish chill. The breaking of a blood
vessel though was a revelation of weakness both distressing and
alarming. The girl, however, seemed neither alarmed nor depressed, even
though Mrs Bishop insisted upon her remaining in bed all Friday. That
night Hetty's temperature rose all at once to fever heat and in the
early morning of Saturday she became delirious. As she tossed from side
to side unconsciously muttering or proclaiming in louder voice thoughts
which she would have died rather than have knowingly disclosed, her
step-mother realised with astonishment and distress that Hetty must have
had some trouble weighing heavily upon her spirit, for how long she knew
not. One thing remained unmistakeably clear – the trouble was connected
with Harry Marston, and Mrs Bishop would have given a good deal to know
what exactly had happened on Beadon Hill last Thursday night. She had
discovered the panel photograph a mass of pulp when she took off the
girl's soddened summer gear preparatory to the hot bath she had insisted
upon her taking. What could Harry have said to upset the child just when
she was out of health, and therefore unable to bear any mental strain?
"Like father, like son," murmured the woman. "Faithless, the whole race
of man," and fierce anger against the young sculptor burnt in the
widow's heart. There was no longer any doubt as to how Hetty regarded
him for though mercifully quiet now, the faithful watcher had heard her
over and over again murmur impassioned words in which his name recurred
with pathetic frequency. Yet those same impassioned mutterings disclosed
the disquieting fact that Hetty was anxious to die before Marston could
return from his tour abroad. Mrs Bishop was quite at a loss to reconcile
these differing disclosures, but decided while delirium lasted, none but
herself and Doctor Mallam should enter the sick room.

Meanwhile Hetty could have told a very different tale had she and her
stepmother been upon confidential terms, but between them a great gulf
was fixed. And because Mrs Bishop had never invited nor encouraged
confidence she was ignorant of many things; ignorant of the fact that
while serving time with the Hurstwick milliner, Miss Buzzard, Hetty had
received a very uncompromising opinion from a specialist she had
consulted there. "Go back to the country," he had said, " be as much as
possible in the open air, and if you do not take cold nor over-exert nor
excite yourself, you may live to be forty or fifty, but you must not
marry! Do not deceive yourself by any apparent improvement. You will
lose your cough as the warm weather comes on and may fancy yourself all
right. But do not on that account allow yourself to be misled, you carry
within you the seeds of consumption, and sooner or later those seeds
will spring into life."

He was not a hard nor indifferent fellow, this Dr. Stokes, but he was
young and moreover he had already made consumption his special casus
belli. He was convinced, too, that there was no cure for it, prevention
was the only effectual weapon to wield against it, and that must be
wielded in high-handed fashion. What , he argued, were a few broken
hearts in this generation if life in future generations were the fuller
and stronger?

At first Hetty refused to believe all that the doctor had told her,
refused to accept as true that God should from her very birth have
doomed her to this heritage of evil. So she merely informed Mrs Bishop
and Miss Buzzard that Dr. Stokes had advised her to return to the
country, and that when the warm weather came she would lose her cough.

Besides, there were people in the world (had she not read of them?) who
said that one could be cured of any complaint if only one was determined
to be well. "Say you are well and God will hear your words and make them
true."

Yes, of course He would. Life was such a land of sweet promises. She
would, in spite of doctors, disease, ay, death itself, go up and possess
it. And the strong will animated by the strong love of the girl, had led
her to triumph over much bodily weakness, while pure country air and
quiet life had worked a change which she regarded as nothing less than
miraculous.

Yet, strive as she might, Hetty could never wholly banish the grave face
and the grave words of Dr. Stokes, especially as he had told her she
would feel stronger. Yes, he had been right there, why therefore should
he not be right in his assertion that the seeds of consumption were
within her and bound, sooner or later, to develop? So it was that on
bidding Harry good-bye last Thursday and realising from his manner how
small a place she had in his life, she listened with a fierce joy to the
secret the thunders had uttered that they might help her to die soon! To
die and become Harry's guardian angel! This was the enchanting vision
imagination offered the girl as the storm beat upon her fragile form
with the same vehemence with which it attacked the broad, solid back of
Beadon Hill. No wonder her eyes shone when she saw those falling crimson
drops – proof positive of the speedy fulfilment of her newly born hope.
To die since she " might not attain," to die before Harry could know
that she had been the victim of disease, to die before she could in any
way become repugnant to him, and die quickly, how infinitely better than
to live on without him. And what usefulness, what joy, could there be in
a life darkened by the shadow of approaching disease? "Oh, it is all
right," she told herself before delirium relieved the tension of her
brain. Harry was too good in every way for her, even if she were strong
she would never be a fitting wife for him. Her place was in the darkened
valley while he must be climbing, ever climbing to the mountain top,
ever inhaling the freshness and fragrance of the heights, ever seeing
new beauties in the landscape about him, ever working out the lovely
ideas that filled his beautiful mind, while she, shut in with the
shadows, would be quite lost to his sight, perhaps even to his memory.

Certainly she would never be able to keep pace with him, though she
could prevent herself from proving a hindrance in his upward path, nay,
she might really aid him if she died and so became his guardian angel!
God would surely give her that happiness since she was ready to
relinquish the great joy of passing through life by his side. Oh! there
could be no doubt about it. Wasn't it common talk in the village for two
months past that the Vicar had seen, or if not seen, had talked with the
spirits of people whose bodies lay under the churchyard grass. "If some
come back, why shouldn't I? I will, I will come back! Then Harry shall
know the greatness of my love, a love I count cheap though I must die to
reveal it."

"God take me soon and make me his guardian angel," were her last
conscious words uttered in the small hours of yesterday morning, and she
was still unaware that delirium had proved itself a very Zaphnath
Paaneah.

Shortly before dawn Mrs Bishop, overcome by fatigue, and relieved by the
unmistakeable signs of improvement in the invalid, nodded in her chair
just as Hetty opened her eyes in which the light of reason shone once
more. At first she failed to understand her surroundings but soon
realised with silent gratitude the significance of her slumbering
stepmother's watch beside her.

Things must be going as she had hoped; evidently she was very ill and
God was hearing and answering her prayer. Soon she would be Harry's
guardian angel and the thought gladdened her heart. Oh, how she would
help him, always near, whispering to him of the lovely things of heaven!

Presently her eye fell on the book her stepmother had been reading and
as she raised it from the coverlet it opened on the words which, as she
read them, seemed to assure her of the certainty of Death's approach.

And surely never sweeter knell fell upon dying ears ! They were George
Herbert's lovely lines:

Sweet Day so cool, so calm, so bright, The bridal of the Earth and Skie,
The dew shall weep thy fall to-night, For thou must die. Sweet Rose,
whose hue, angrie and brave, Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye ; Thy root
is ever in its grave, And thou must die. Sweet spring, full of sweet
daises and roses, A box where sweets compacted lie, My musick shows you
have your closes, And all must die. Only a sweet and virtuous soul, Like
season'd timber never gives, But though the whole world turn to coal
Then chiefly lives. "'Then chiefly lives,' ah, yes," murmured the girl.
" Then chiefly lives! Come soon, dear Death, that I may begin to live
for Harry." And the little book fell from her fingers that she might
clasp them for that prayer. The movement awoke Mrs Bishop, annoyed to
have been caught napping, and annoyed, too, at the rapt look on Hetty's
face.

But she only said: "I've got something keeping warm for you that Dr.
Mallam said you were to have as soon as you woke up." And as the speaker
descended the little staircase Hetty smiled--she would do just as she was
told she said to herself--for whatever Dr. Mallam might order, or she
might take in the way of nourishment or medicine, nothing would prevent
her from being Harry's guardian angel soon. She hugged the thought to
her breast as a mother in secret clasps her first-born. She even
rejoiced in the remembrance of Dr. Stokes's certainty that nothing
could, or would save her.

The thunders, they had helped her, and now the little poem had told the
same story, everything indeed, was uniting to give her the desire of her
heart.

So she drank the nourishing stuff Mrs Bishop brought, and presently was
again fast asleep and breathing regularly. "She'll do now, I think,
thank God," murmured the woman. "I'll get a rest on my bed while I can."

About noon Dr. Mallam called, and Hetty had her first experience of his
methods, for she had been delirious when he first saw her, on the
Saturday.

Of course he produced his stethoscope, and when he said, "We'll soon
have you about again," the girl only smiled pleasantly. She knew so much
better than Dr. Mallam, and Dr. Stokes knew much better even than she.

It was strange, she mused when again alone, how, at one time, she had
hated the Hurstwick doctor, and though she could not hate the good Dr.
Mallam she nevertheless felt annoyed that he should talk so foolishly.
Then she reminded herself that doctors never spoke openly to patients
who were really dying, and comforted by the thought she again fell
asleep.

She did not awake until evening, when she found Mrs Bishop seated by the
bed, her fingers busy putting the finishing touches to a panel of lovely
Irish lace destined for a bride and which, as Hetty recalled, should
have been sent off a week ago.

"I'm sorry to have hindered you, mother, but it won't be for long," she
said brightly, while Mrs Bishop laid the work aside and handed the girl
a plate of jelly. "Oh, mother, how kind of you."

"Well, it's better than medicine," was the somewhat curt rejoinder; "Mrs
Brinsfield sent it."

"Oh, mother, "and the tones were so pleading they hurt the listener; "I
should so much like to see her, if only for ten minutes. I know you
don't like her, though I don't know why --"

"I don't dislike a person I know nothing about," interrupted the other,
" and I know nothing about Mrs. Brinsfield. If Dr. Mallam makes no
objection, and she can come, I'll ask him to arrange for her to stay
with you while I go to Burybridge to-morrow to post the lace."

"Thank you, thank you. I want to ask her something, and may I see the
Burybridge newspaper, this week's?"

"I'll bring it up when I come with your supper," said Mrs Bishop, as she
gently shook out the lace and exposed the beauty of the pattern and its
exquisite workmanship. "How lovely!" was Hetty's involuntary
exclamation. Then she sighed; she would never be a bride, but, recalling
her thoughts to the contemplation of her coming joy as Harry's
angel-friend, fear for a moment clutched at her heart. Surely she was
stronger than yesterday, and not coughing so much? Yet, her mother would
never have allowed her to see Mrs Brinsfield, she reminded herself, if
she were likely to recover. Yes, Death must be known to be coming for
her.

She must see the local paper to read what the Vicar said at Chesterdoge,
and when she had seen Mrs Brinsfield and got an answer from her to one
or two questions, she would he quite ready to obey Death's call. But she
hoped it would come soon--if it didn't, her longing for it might weaken.
Yet the alternative--to struggle on for years in a losing light against
disease, bereft of Harry's love, was one not to he entertained with
equanimity, and rallying all her spiritual power, she directed her
thoughts towards the life she had portrayed would be hers after Death's
advent.

Mrs Bishop, convinced that the girl had passed the crisis of her
illness, and assured by Dr. Mallam that a thorough change to the east
coast would do away with any lingering lung trouble, hailed the
opportunity of getting off to Burybridge to despatch the lace, and Mrs
Brinsfield was in fact the only being in the village she would have
permitted to sit with Hetty in her absence. She had, however, no
intention of seeing that lady herself, nor of allowing her to become
intimate with the girl--unknown to whom she had for some time past been
making enquiry for a house at Hurstwick. Life at Monthurst was more
difficult since Hetty's return, and she would have moved months ago
could she have found a suitable residence elsewhere. It would not be
easy to find another "Rose Cottage," so convenient and with such a
charming flower and fruit garden. But her mind was now made up; she must
leave as soon as Hetty was convalescent and a tenant found for the
remainder of her lease.

Next morning Dr. Mallam gave his hearty assent to Hetty's request,
telling her her mother would be all the better for a little fresh air
and exercise. Later Nurse Armstrong called to say that Mrs Brinsfield
would come down at six o'clock and stay for one hour. At five minutes to
six Mrs Bishop, wearing her bonnet (she wouldn't wear a hat) and neat
walking costume stood at the bedroom window, and, on catching sight of
Mrs Brinsfield, said to Hetty, "She is at the top of the street, and
will be here directly. Don't excite yourself, and promise to lie quietly
if I'm not back before she goes. I'll leave the door ajar as I said I
would. Goodbye." And a minute later the speaker was outside the house
and hurrying in the direction of Burybridge.

A quarter of a mile further on she turned into a side road leading to
Gwatton, a larger village than Monthurst, and nearer than Burybridge.
Here her infrequent letters were posted, and here letters arriving for
her waited " till called for," an arrangement which though it
effectually prevented any examination by Jemima Gossall of the widow's
correspondence, gave the gossip food for further innuendo--"A summat to
hide, you know."

CHAPTER IX

Elsie: Oh, yes, to thousands Death plays upon a dulcimer and sings That
song of consolation till the air Rings with it and they cannot choose
but follow. P. Henry: Yes, in their saddest moments 'Tis the sound Of
their own hearts they hear half full of tears. The Golden Legend.

A STRANGE sight met the gaze of Beatrice as she entered the sick room.
At the bedside stood a small, spare woman of thirty-five, though in
appearance much older, whom she recognised as the wife of the village
cobbler, arms akimbo, eyes shooting out defiance and lips set in the
firm tension of unbending resolve. These mute tokens of their owner's
determination to hold her own, whatever the consequences, fell away one
by one when she realised that the new comer was the vicar's wife and not
the dreaded Mrs Bishop into whose house she had surreptitiously
ventured.

Glad, apparently, to devolve her mission, and possibly mindful of the
claims of two urchins she had ruthlessly abandoned in the bath-tub upon
a high sink, she offered no excuse for her presence but, stooping over
the girl, said in a perfectly audible whisper:

"Jemima Gossall it was as sent me, but Missus Brinsfield 'ull talk to
you a lot better ner me. So good-bye, Miss Bishop, till us meets agen
upon the other shore." Then, bestowing a hearty kiss upon the astonished
and also amused invalid, the woman went swiftly down the stairs and a
moment later the click of the outer door announced her departure.

"What on earth was she doing here?" asked Beatrice, in indignant tones,
as she seated herself and took the girl's hand in hers.

"She only came in about two minutes ago," returned Hetty, who still
looked amused by the startling intrusion; "she hadn't much breath to say
anything; she must have run her hardest down street as soon as she saw
mother go out."

"Yes, she and Jemima Gossall were ahead of me and going so fast I
wondered what could be the matter."

"Perhaps they thought I ought to be told how ill I am, and I do think
she was surprised that I wasn't frightened when she said, ' Hetty, do
you know you're agoing to die?"

Beatrice could hardly repress a shudder; the girl's words and the
calmness with which they were spoken revealed an unusual, an unexpected,
mental outlook. But, controlling every sign of astonishment, she
confined her remarks to the impertinent action of the intruder.

"How dared she come here in your mother's absence and without
permission! Her children were squalling frightfully as I came past the
cottage!"

"Oh, please don't be vexed with her, Mrs Brinsfield," said Hetty, who
had been raised to a comfortable position by lier visitor and was now
reclining happily upon the newly-shaken pillows; "She didn't frighten me
at all; I've known all along that I shan't get well."

"But, Hetty, dear, you really are mistaken, and even Mrs Beddoes knows
that there is every prospect of your getting well. Dr. Mallam called at
the vicarage after he'd seen you this morning and said he was delighted
with your improvement. He thinks you ought to get downstairs again next
week, and as soon as ever you do I shall send Micky with the wheeled
wicker-chair and have you up to sit, or if you like better, to lie, in
the hammock on the lawn. The weather is specially good now for getting
over an attack like yours."

"You are very kind, Mrs Brinsfield," was the girl's quiet response, and
Beatrice found it not merely baffling and incomprehensible but almost
alarming, it seemed actually to give the lie to Dr. Mallam's opinion. So
she proceeded to emphasise the latter at the same time busying herself
in pulling grapes from a fine bunch she had brought with her and
denuding them of their skins and pips.

"Take these, dear," she said, " there are more where they came from. Dr.
Mallam says you can't eat too many, and he wants you to go away for a
change as soon as you possibly can. I expect you may have heard that I'm
taking the children and Nurse Armstrong to the west of Ireland in about
three weeks' time, and I shall be so glad if you will come too. The
doctor would like you to have a long sea-trip but, as I suppose that is
an impossibility, he is quite content that you should come away with me.
Don't you think your mother will spare you?"

"No, Mrs Brinsfield, I'm quite sure she won't," came firmly from the
still parched lips, and then as if all at once reminded how short the
time at her disposal for the enquiries she had in view, the girl raised
the newspaper lying upon the counterpane and pointed to the column
headed "The Reverent Research into the Unseen Society " and "Effigy
Burning at Chesterdoge."

Already Hetty had read and re-read the abridged report of the vicar's
speeches, seizing upon every intimation and argument presented by him to
establish the certainty of intercourse--communication--between the living
and the dead. And he had been burnt in effigy like one of the old
martyrs! Henceforth, in her eyes, he would be invested with a saint's
aureole. "Isn't it beautiful," she exclaimed, thinking, quite naturally,
that Beatrice was at one with her husband on this and every topic, "
isn't it beautiful to know that when the soul leaves the body it will be
free to accompany its dear ones left behind, to help, cheer and comfort
them as it is not possible for it to do when in the flesh? I read about
the vicar's researches in a magazine in the Free Library when I was over
in Burybridge a fortnight ago, and now he seems to be more certain even
than he was then."

And the speaker touched the newspaper while her visitor could barely
conceal her amazement as she realised the absolute detachment with which
this young girl faced the approach of Death. For a moment she seemed
bereft of the power to speak while Hetty, out of a full heart, continued
all unheeding: "And how cruel of those people to burn him in effigy!"

Then Beatrice found her voice and, reminded that more than a quarter of
an hour of the time allotted for her visit had already passed, she
commenced her effort to break down the girl's ill-founded hopes by
saying:

"But you are going to get well, dear, and we must never forget that our
first, perhaps our only duty is to live here upon this earth, to enjoy
the life God has given us and to make this world --"

"Ah, but when this life is no longer enjoyable?" interrupted the
invalid.

"Hetty, you mustn't talk like that, indeed you mustn't!" reproof evident
through the tender tones; " you must believe Dr. Mallam when he says
that the mischief he found in your lungs when he first saw you has
practically disappeared and will be entirely got rid of if you can have
a complete change of air and scene. Don't, don't encourage such
thoughts, I beg you. It is as though you wanted to leave us, and I'm
only just beginning to know you, dear. Already I love you and I can't
bear to think that you and I will not be great friends for many, many
years to come."

But the girl did not respond, indeed the happy look that had been so
much in evidence when she had talked of life after death had gradually
faded from her face and was now replaced by a dogged, almost sullen
expression. It was, thought Beatrice, as she watched the transformation,
as if she had been called upon suddenly to relinquish something very
precious.

How could any one guess that being under sentence of death by Dr.
Stokes' diagnosis and seeing no hope of a reprieve, some member or
members of " that colony of God " within her, called by scientists the
sub-conscious mind or the imaginative faculty, had instantly set to work
to palliate for her the painfulness of the position, had clad Death in
garments of roseate hue, had exhibited him as a friend, and bidden her
listen to his entrancing promises which, without any manner of doubt, he
would fulfil to the letter.

"Come," he had said as he gently touched her. "Come with me, child, and
together we will range the sky; clouds of loveliest hue shall be your
halting places from whence your spirit-eyes shall clearly follow the
movements of your dearest, and swiftly shall you fly to succour and to
cheer him!"

Such was the enchanting picture presented to her and which from the
indulgence of its probability had become an undoubted fact not lightly
to be discredited. To be told just as she had discovered and rejoiced in
the personality, the friendliness of Death, had listened to the list of
priceless gifts he would bestow when she had entered his kingdom, she
wasn't going there--she couldn't--she wouldn't believe it.

Beatrice, recalling the rumour that Hetty and the young sculptor were
sweethearting, wondered if they had quarelled or if Mrs Bishop had shown
herself antagonistic. One knew so little of these people, but certainly
the best thing that could happen to the girl would be to get her out of
Monthurst for a time. So, pressing her hand, she said, "Come away with
me to Ireland, dear, and watch the big Atlantic waves roll in beneath
the cliffs so steep and high, the highest, you knew, in the British
Islands. There, too, we shall likely see an eagle, for they love the
high places, and you would soon grow strong. Little Rex is going there
because his heart is weak and the air is mild. Try, try to get better
and come with us!"

But her words seemed to fall upon deaf ears.

Death's lure was more enchanting and Hetty, unwilling to relinquish the
high hopes she had evolved from Dr. Stokes' opinion, scarcely noted her
visitor's anxiety as, drawing from beneath her pillow the little book,
Herbert's poems, she pointed to the last verse of the one
commencing--"Sweet day so cool." "Isn't that true, Mrs Brinsfield?" she
asked challengingly--"Then chiefly lives."

And the girl's manner proved that she had been for some time
cherishing--actually cherishing--the hope that Death would soon claim her.

To Beatrice the question with all it implied struck like a physical blow
upon her weakest, least defended position. In her bewilderment she
glanced at her watch and was surprised to find that the visit from which
she had hoped so much must end in less than ten minutes and in
disappointment to both girl and woman. "O Thou my voice inspire!" was
the silent prayer of the latter as she said--an infinity of
tender-compelling in words and look--

"Hetty, darling, isn't it better to live on here and help our dear ones
with touch of hand and lip and loving thought and deed than to go where
perhaps we may never see them again?"

The girl did not reply, too startled perchance by this unlooked for
check, her gaze directed to the opposite wall though her eyes saw not
the picture hanging there.

"You see," continued Beatrice, apology evident in her tones, " we know
so little, so very little about what actually happens to us after we
cease to breathe; we hope much, and poets and good men and women have
woven their hopes into lovely verse, and the pictures they have painted
for us do most certainly help us to get over many a rough place on the
road. But no one has ever come back to tell us where or how they
go--nor--"

Then, breaking off as she saw no sign of encouragement upon her
listener's face, Beatrice tried to reason with the girl.

"Isn't it wiser, think you, to leave all question of what will happen to
us when we pass from this life in the hands of Him Who created us, and
neither speculate nor anticipate? Think what lovely surprises may be
awaiting us! We do love to paint pictures of the hereafter, and even map
out our own work there, but believe me," concluded the speaker, with
deep emotion, " it is best to take life as it is, doing our best for
ourselves and others,, asking for strength to meet all its joys as well
as its sorrows."

"Is life a breath?" she quoted; "Breathe deeper; draw life up from hour
to hour, aye from deepest deep of thy soul!"

"Ah! there is seven o'clock striking!" she exclaimed, as she rose from
her chair. "I promised Dr. Mallain faithfully I wouldn't stay beyond the
hour. But I can't bear to leave you like this, dear. Please thank your
mother for letting me come, and do let me come again!"

And Beatrice stooped and kissed the girl who still made no response and
though the former lingered in her passage to the bedroom door the
invalid made no movement. Hetty felt indeed that she had been doubly and
most cruelly robbed. Harry had sent no post-card, and had even forgotten
to forward the cast of the prize font as he had promised. Now Death, who
had made her fairer promises than Harry had ever made, had deceived and
deserted her! Turning on her side as Mrs Brinsfield left the house she
would have cried herself to sleep had not her stepmother entered the
room and insisted upon her taking a cup of nourishing broth.

It was a heavy-hearted Beatrice that returned to the vicarage from which
she had set forth with such high hopes a short hour ago. Neither the
consolation nor advice she had provided herself with had been given or
even required, yet the girl believed herself to be as Mrs Beddoes
phrased it, " hovering on the brink of the grave." Why wasn't she
delighted to hear that her recovery was practically assured? How could
she desire death? And Beatrice shuddered as she recalled the weird,
terrifying monument of "Death and the Girl of Eighteen" in his embrace,
standing in one of the corridors of the famous cemetery at Genoa.

The sense of mystery connected with " they Bishopses" deepened rather
than lightened, and instead of the friendship Beatrice had profoundly
desired to establish with Hetty she had most probably incurred the
girl's lasting dislike. Yet, as she pondered over the interview in the
seclusion of her own room that night, she decided no other action had
been possible to her than to point out the supreme importance of the
life here. Then, for the first time since their coming to Monthurst,
Beatrice rejoiced in Mrs Bishop's aloofness, for had the relations
between the vicarage and Rose Cottage been on a normal footing, the
vicar would have been in strong sympathy with the girl and probably have
sought her services as a medium.

Fortunately, he was now at Wrenton, the property he had inherited from
his father, and his wife was really glad to think that business would
call him there on and off until the family set out for Achill. It
distressed her terribly that she could not talk over the girl's attitude
with him; she dared not, so strong was her conviction that harm to both
would follow.

To Mallam she spoke freely, hoping he might explain the obsession of the
invalid and at the same time support her treatment of it.

"I couldn't tell her point-blank that the spirit, does not chiefly live
after death as she challenged me to do?"

Mallam shrugged his shoulders.

"Girls are queer creatures till they emerge from their teens, and I
fancy there is little or no sympathy between the stepmother and
daughter. Of course you were quite right to insist on the supreme
importance of life here and now, the hereafter will take care of itself
and be in no wise affected by the pictures poet, scientist or
philosopher may paint of it. I'm no materialist and I'm no dogmatist,
certainly I'm no opportunist, though the opportunist of today may prove
to be the saviour of thousands to-morrow. I can truthfully say I believe
in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting with no qualm
of conscience, though I fear my interpretation of those statements is
not the generally received one. Life is everlasting and the body does
rise again but--" and the speaker rose abruptly and extended his hand in
farewell.

"You think Death destroys the personality but not the life?" said
Beatrice, deeply impressed by what was to her an entirely new line of
thought.

"Ah, that no living being can tell us, but if the body changes after
death why not the soul, the life? Death is still the great adventure for
which all should be prepared but none hasten."

Then in quite another voice and drawing on his driving-gloves the doctor
said, "I shall talk seriously to that young lady, sow a few doubts in
her mind as to the feasibility of the projects she is forming for her
life after death; tease her a little on her evident desire to pose as an
invalid, though she is practically a convalescent."

"But you won't give me away? She mustn't know that I have spoken to
you."

"That'll be all right, Mrs Brinsfield; we doctors have to be, or try to
be, as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves, and on the whole I
think we succeed fairly well in uniting those opposites. The girl
herself will get quite well if she herself will lend her powers to that
end."

Entering his car the speaker drove off, and as he passed beyond the
vicarage gates and cast his eyes upon the lovely colourings of sky and
earth his confidence in the fitness of things provided by a beneficent
Creator grew stronger. Though in converse with Mrs Brinsfield he always
avoided any discussion of, or even reference to, spiritualism he felt a
profound sympathy for her and a strong sense of commiseration for her
husband and his fellow-thinkers who " worried " themselves, as he
phrased it, to hasten, if that were possible, the knowledge, the
experience that death and--so he was convinced, death only could supply.
Meanwhile nothing could be more demoralising for a young girl than
constant contemplation of life after death. Contemplation per se on any
subject he regarded as most pernicious in its effects on the young.
Youth was the time for absorbing physical and mental food; old age or
maturing age might well be reserved for chewing the cud of food so (as
it should be) widely and in such variety administered and received.

He had noticed the newspaper with its bold headlines of the vicar's
Chesterdoge meetings as it lay upon Hetty's bed und determined to speak
strongly to Mrs Bishop on the matter. Body and soul must work together,
any usurpation of undue influence by either could only destroy the
delicate balance upon the maintenance of which the perfect health of the
whole organism depended. Hence his enmity towards spiritualism which in
his opinion adversely, ruinously affected that balance.

Beatrice, her mind somewhat relieved by the little talk and realising
how much she had to do in arranging for the three months' holiday in
Ireland, resolved that nothing should mar the happiness of the few
remaining days she and Naldo would have together. At Achill, as she had
told him, she would make her decision, then she hoped to have Crapezzo's
pamphlet, or at least the review of it by Ambericus, which Helena had
promised and praised so highly.

Early that morning the whole village learnt that Beddoes' youngest born,
in his mother's absence at Rose Cottage the previous evening, had broken
an arm in endeavouring to scramble from the tub whence his elder
brother, by more careful treatment of the slobbery stone sink, had
successfully escaped. Poor Sarah "Ameelyar "Beddoes! Never again would
she consent to become the catspaw of Jemima Gossall! True, some of her
neighbours applauded her courage, but there were others who, by
scriptural warrant, declared her " to be worse than an infidel."

To Mrs Bishop's usual air of detachment an added contempt, for the whole
plebian population of Monthurst was now manifest, in fact the
unwarrantable intrusion of the female Beddoes resulted in such "
standoffishness " as to verify the suitability of Mrs Gossall's
description of her to the baronet-- " a walking stinging-nettle." Had the
villagers understood French they would have read canaille on her lips
whenever she encountered them, but they needed no interpreter! A
fortnight later Rose Cottage was securely closed, its mistress taking
Hetty, much ugainst her will, to a seaside resort on the east coast.
There they remained until the end of July not dreaming, with no
premonition, of the wonderful events which shortly would change their
whole physical, mental and social outlook. Romance, not Death, was
approaching!

CHAPTER X

Spite is anger which is afraid to show itself; it is an impotent fury
conscious of its impotence. Amiel.

ONE morning, about twelve weeks after Hetty Bishop's sharp, brief
illness, Jemima Gossall plaintively remarked to her husband that she
felt " unked," "Monthurst were got so deadly dull."

There had certainly been a complete absence of incident in the village;
and how to produce an 'appetising dish of gossip without a modicum of
fact, even though presently that modicum, like leaven in a pan of dough,
be utterly unrecognisable, was beyond the power of Jemima Gossall,
expert as she was in the kneading and cooking of " hearsays " and "
ifs." From her point of view, things were without doubt depressing.

Hetty Bishop, though convalescent, was scarcely ever seen in the street,
hay-harvest was over, the corn would not be cut for another week or
more, no child had been born, no one had died. Parson Brinsfield was
said to be " acting chaplain " at one of the mountain resorts of the
British in Switzerland, while his wife and children were rusticating on
a farm near the sea in the west of Ireland. The Manor House had been
closed since the end of June, its mistress, Mrs Packenham, also in
foreign parts. It was now the third week of September, and neither the
Vicarage nor Manor House people were expected back for another fortnight
or more.

No wonder, therefore, that the postman's wife, standing at the little
shop window, hailed with delight the unlooked-for appearance of Sir
Edward Mainwaring when, just after remarking, "Monthurst were got so
deadly dull," she espied him approaching on foot from the direction of
Burybridge.

But a moment later wrath mingled with, and entirely disposed of that
suddenly evoked delight.

"Well I never!" she exclaimed to her sole listener--her husband, then
taking his "eleven o'clock " in the little back room-- " if he hasn't
stopped at the Bishopses door! Ay, an' he's ackshully gone inside--the
ole fool!" she continued, her tones reprehensive and acrimonious. "He
noticed the gell when he were here i' June, but I never thought he had
it in him to call and see her. Well, I'm blest!"

And Gossall, whose ability to perceive jokes unless they were "
exceedingly broad " was simply nil, neither laughed nor thought of
enquiring how this action of the baronet's could result in benediction
to his wife. Instead, he remarked pacifically, his mouth full of bread
and cheese, "He's all right; it'll be the woman he's doin' business
with." But that announcement did not placate Jemima and, as she silently
resolved she would see " the thing through," it was a full hour later
before she could relax in any wise the tension either of her eyes or
nether limbs.

It had indeed struck twelve some ten minutes when she saw the baronet
again upon the door step of " the walking-stinging-nettle ."

Possibly he caught a glimpse of the hungry eyes of the watching figure
at the bow-window and he may have deemed it wise to throw a sop to
Gossip. For, instead of turning in the direction of the inn, where he
had presumably left his horse, he crossed the road, and with a cheery
"Good Day!" entered the little shop and post-office, while Gossall
discreetly slipped out at the back.

"Um--um--Sir Edward M. Mainwaring," was the grimly delivered response.

"Ha, I'm glad you haven't forgotten me, Mrs Gossall--your memory is
wonderful!" '"

But the woman, regarding this pleasantry but as the throwing of dust
into her eyes--retorted with something of the savagery of the wild boar
in her eyes, "Yes, my mem'ry, thank God, is a good 'un--an' I've not
forgot the remark you made 'bout Hett Bishop when you was here i' June.
But I never thought you had it in you to go an' call on folks like them,
folks --"

"Well, ma'am," interrupted the baronet genially, " if you see anything
wrong in my calling on Mrs Bishop you have only yourself to blame, for
if you hadn't told me so much about them I don't think I should have
ventured near--and--"

"I never advised you to go anigh 'em, Sir Edward M. --" was the heated
rejoinder.

"No, but you spoke of them as ' walking-stinging nettles,' you know, and
that interested me a good deal."

"Um-- " snorted the woman. "What I told you ought to have kep' you miles
away from 'em. I suppose," she continued, changing front and unmasking
in a moment the malice and jealousy raging within her, "I suppose you've
been arrangin' to send that gell to the seaside for change o' air! Ha!
you may well smile--you men be allus buzzin' round the gells if they've--"

"Ah," interposed the baronet, adroitly doubling, "I was quite distressed
to learn how very ill Miss Bishop has been since I --"

"Miss Bishop, indeed?" echoed the woman, her " dander " rapidly rising
under the cool, masterful tactics of the titled stranger who, taking no
heed whatever of the ominous tokens of gathering wrath, continued:

"I've been strongly advising Mrs Bishop to take the girl out to
Australia this autumn. We've a fine climate there, and you know there's
nothing like a sail --"

"Well, I'm blest.' " interpolated the listener, and finding that
apostrophe wholly inadequate to express a tithe of the annoyance that "
they Bishops " had come in for so much attention and consideration, she
slashed the duster she had in her hand with such sudden vehemence at a
wasp crawling on the shelf above the baronet's head, that for a moment
he fancied himself the object of her attack and retreated with leisured
haste to the shop-door.

"Pardon, Sir Edward M.," spluttered Jemima, who was by no means inclined
to let her visitor depart until she had not only learnt all he had to
tell, but while she had, as at present, ' a good piece ' of her mind
undelivered to him. Making a gigantic effort to control herself, she
said :

"'Stralia's the place where you live when you're at home, ent it, Sir
Edward M. Mainwaring?"

"Yes, Mrs Gossall, I've a beautiful place out beyond Sydney, and I've a
sweet little villa there which I should be very glad if Mrs Bishop would
consent to occupy for the rest of her days."

"Ha, Sir--Sir--Sir--M!" and, unable any longer to control her fury, the
woman struck out right and left with relentless and resounding aim at
every winged insect which the contents of her shop and the summer heat
had lured within; " you--don't--deceive me," she interpolated between each
whack, " ode birds are not to be caught wi' chaff nor ode folk wi'
gammon and spinach; I say you don't deceive me " and the speaker glared
at the unabashed baronet, her death-dealing duster poised in mid-air.

"I hope not, I hope not," coolly rejoined the gentleman, who, from his
vantage ground near the door, regarded the raging creature before him
with the mingled wonder, amusement and even regret of a keen critic. She
seemed to him like some bird or beast who must for ever be seeking foul
food and batten thereon; "I've no wish to deceive you or anyone. I must
be going, though; I really only came in to thank you for interesting me
so much in Mrs and Miss Bishop, and to tell you how delighted I am to
find that Mrs Bishop is the sister of a lady I met years ago at my
uncle's, the Earl of Brudenham's place. Again, let me thank you.
Good-morning."

The eye of the listening woman, fascinated by this un-looked-for
information, glittered coldly throughout its recital and, as the baronet
bowed himself out, she wrathfully waved him away with the fluttering
duster and something that sounded very like a hiss.

"A lie, if there ever was one!" she at length ejaculated, as her visitor
passed out of sight, and she fetched a broom to sweep away the bodies of
her late and still breathing victims from counter and floor.

CHAPTER XI

We walk upon The shadow of hills across a level thrown, And pant like
climbers. E. B. Browning.

AD eleven o'clock that morning Hetty was sitting in her bedroom at the
back of the cottage engaged in a half-hearted attempt to trim a hat.
Presently she became aware of voices in the room below, though no words
reached her ears, in fact the voices seemed to be scarcely raised above
a whisper.

Later on the girl thought she caught the sound of stifled sobs, and she
began to ask herself whether she ought not to go down-stairs and find
out who was making her stepmother cry. But Hetty did not move from her
seat. Never could she recall a time when her father's second wife had
looked other than unapproachable, unbending, a woman whose tears were
under the same rigid control as the muscles of her lips--a woman who
never encouraged visitors and gave them usually but the "Yea, yea, and
nay, nay," enjoined by the Preacher on the Mount in return alike either
for their queries or remarks.

While Hetty pondered, unable to make up her mind to interfere, she
realised that the caller was leaving, and presently footsteps were heard
ascending the stairs.

When the door opened Mrs Bishop with shining eyes beamed upon the girl,
whose shallow curiosity as to the departed visitor instantly broadened
and deepened.

"Why, mother!" she exclaimed, and said no more as she noted the
gathering moisture in the woman's eyes, and the poor attempt of the lips
so long unused to smiling. The eyes, with that dewiness about them, were
really fine, and with that curving mouth the face was almost handsome.

"Why, mother!" Hetty repeated, her sewing arrested, one hand indeed
stretched out in unconscious entreaty.

And then, to the girl's further astonishment, Mrs Bishop put an arm
about her shoulders and actually stooped and kissed her.

Nay, in another moment she was upon her knees and had taken the girl's
hands in hers, ribbon and thimble falling to the floor unheeded.

"Why, mother, what is it?" came the question once more, while a wave of
long-repressed affection surged through the speaker's being, and she
instinctively returned both kiss and pressure.

"Such good news, dear! O, my child, you are going to get well and be a
strong woman. You know Dr. Mallam has told yon so all along " (for
Hetty's face had fallen at the bare reference to her health). "Sir
Edward Mainwaring has asked us to go out to his place in Australia this
autumn and the sail will do everything for you. Just think of it, dear,"
and Mrs Bishop stopped breathless from excitement.

Instinctively Hetty withdrew her clasping fingers, and her form became
almost rigid as she said in disapproving, sceptical tones, "Why should a
strange man I have never seen, and whom my father never knew, ask me to
go anywhere? Besides, you haven't cared so much as all that about my
getting well."

"Hetty," returned the other, ignoring the girl's first question,
reproach and beseechment in her voice, " you know I've cared; you know
I've done all in my power to have you well. I've been horrid, though, I
know--none knows it better than I do. But I've had a great weight on my
heart, Hetty, almost ever since I married your father, and to-day it has
rolled away like Christian's burden. You must forgive me, child."

And smitten with compunction as she recalled the unfailing attentions of
her step-mother during her illness and convalescence, Hetty almost
unwittingly caressed the brown, wavy hair so close to her hand, while
her eyes suddenly brimmed so full with tears she could scarcely see the
upturned face of the woman kneeling beside her. "And Sir Edward
Mainwaring," the latter was saying, "I'd never seen him before, but he
knew my only sister, be tells me, when she was a governess-companion to
his cousin the Earl of Brudenham's daughter nearly thirty years ago.
Both of them have been dead for more than twenty years. But I'll tell
you all about everything as soon as I can, dear, and that won't be till
this afternoon. As I told you this morning, I have to be in Burybridge
by half-past one, and it wants but the quarter." Here the speaker rose
from her knees and kissing Hetty said, "I'll get your dinner up before I
go, and we'll have a long talk when I come back."

But the girl held her newly-found friend tightly by the hand as she
asked in hesitating tones: "Is it about Harry, mother?"

"Well, yes it is about Harry, dear. Oh, I've been right down wicked in
imagining evil, but I've learnt a lesson I shall never, never forget. I
do think, Hetty, there is nothing in all the world so mischievous as
imagination, and so foolish, too. It's just vain imagination on my part
that has spoilt my life, and, God forgive me! the lives of all who have
had to do with me. But I'll do my best now, child, to make things up to
you, please God."

The woman's cheery tones and words acted like a tonic, and five minutes
later Hetty was downstairs discussing with more appetite than she had
evinced since convalescence, the trout her step-mother had procured and
baked so temptingly.

Nevertheless, she pondered long and deeply on the mysterious news she
was about to hear, and which had wrought such a wonderful change in a
hitherto joyless, unapproachable woman. What could this burden have been
of which her mother had spoken, a burden--yet, after all, only something
imagined? What she asked herself was this imagination which had spoilt
so many lives? What indeed was imagination, and how could one say with
certainty what was actual and what imaginary? Certainly things were very
puzzling. Had Dr. Stokes only imagined that she had the seeds of
consumption within her, or was he right and Dr. Mallam (who wouldn't
hear of such a thing) was he the victim of imagination?

Hetty silently realised that when doctors disagree any decision, short
of a demonstration, would be impossible, and she could not help smiling
as she came to the conclusion that she would have " to live till she
died," before she herself could know which of the two had been right.

Then, for the first time, she asked herself whether, like her
step-mother, she was not also the victim of imagination. Certainly she
had imagined she was about to die--she had imagined the thunders had
promised to help her to do so, she had been certain that God would let
her be Harry's guardian angel--but here she was, still in the body, and
the very means Dr. Mallam had suggested as certain to produce a lasting
cure had this very day been put within her reach. Why was it that she
still continued to regard all these signs with disfavour? Why had she
not accepted Mrs Brinsfield's offer to take her to Ireland? Why, if she
were no longer the victim of consumption did she not rejoice in that
knowledge?

Hetty only too well knew why--and in the new light which her
step-mother's words about imagination had let in upon her narrow world
she commenced to deal fairly and squarely with herself. Yes, that desire
of hers to die, was in reality, she now saw, nothing but a piece of pure
selfishness, a way of escape from a position she had not cared to
contemplate, though she knew quite well it was not an imaginary one. But
now it must be handled--brought out into the full light of day, touched,
ay, and tasted.

Moved by the perturbation of her gentle spirit the girl unconsciously
rose from her seat and, as unconsciously, looked out upon the little
front garden now bathed in a flood of August sunshine. And the truth she
was nerving herself to handle fell unconsciously from her lips as she
whispered, "He does not love you, there is no need for you to die, or to
efface yourself. His work is everything--you merely a detail, not even as
precious in his eyes as the clay he fingers, for that is always
responsive and does not distract his thoughts."

All at once she became aware that bright drops were falling from her
eyes which, still fixed upon the flowers outside, saw not them but the
whole lovely view Hope and Imagination had painted so brightly, blotted
out, and just a long, lonely road visible beneath a dull and lowering
sky.

"Ah, God," she exclaimed beneath her breath, " if I might but have been
his guardian!"

Seating herself once more, Hetty drew from her pocket a short and
well-read letter, the only one indeed she had received from the young
sculptor during his more than three months' absence.

It was as bare of tender or ardent affection as had been that interview
on Beadon Hill, and the girl's cheeks flamed as she remembered how
vainly she had endeavoured on that occasion to extract from Harry some
expression of affectionate admiration.

The letter bore the Florence post-mark, and contained the information
that the writer had been to see the very well in the monastery garden of
La Certosa which had served him as a model for the prize font.

He also spoke with intense admiration of the Medici Mausoleum and the
figures in the Sacristy of San Lorenzo.

"The heat is frightful, one can't breathe here, much less think. With
love as ever, H.M. P.S. --Miss Barton came out, but I rarely see her."

"Yes, I knew she would go; no wonder he doesn't write," and without
further lingering Hetty went into the kitchen and deliberately placed
the disappointing letter upon the smouldering embers in the grate. But
it was not until she had stirred them that, like a sulky creature under
provocation, they suddenly blazed out, and in one brief second reduced
the flimsy offering to uncohering fragments, forcing them out of sight
into the blackness of the chimney depths.

This act was but the outward and visible sign of the wilful, deliberate
destruction by the girl of the delicious, captivating, weakening
conceits and imaginations in which she had indulged ever since she and
Harry had played together at being sweethearts. And it was a costly
thing, more costly she would find it than even dying--this act of
destroying every hope, every fancy, every thought, into which up till
now his name, his very image had been inwoven. And Hetty was well aware
of the young man's strong sense of honour and that he might and probably
would before long regard himself as bound to her--therefore since she was
convinced that he did not truly love her--she must go where he could not
easily find her--in other words, she must accept the offer of Sir Edward
Mainwaring and go away before Harry returned from Italy, a far
pleasanter way of removing herself than that she had contemplated.

The wonderful news her step-mother was about to disclose had doubtless
something to do with Harry's birth--perhaps his parents had been
discovered, and if they turned out to be people of standing then he
would be more detached from her than ever.

Of course Hetty might insist that when he was eighteen he begged her to
become engaged to him, but she was not of that make of woman who found a
claim for life-long companionship and a share of this world's goods in
the ashes of a burnt out, or feeble affection, nor yet in the yielding
rubble of a platonic friendship.

Mrs Bishop, on returning at four o'clock, found tea set, the kettle
boiling and such a Hetty as she had not known for the past two years.
And the woman sighed, for she knew, or thought she knew, that what she
had promised to tell her step-daughter was bound to wound her deeply.
But while she pondered on the best way of introducing the subject the
girl said brightly, "When do you think we can sail for Sydney, mother?"

CHAPTER XII

I see men's judgements are A parcel of their fortunes; and things
outward Do draw the inward quality after them To suffer all alike. Ant
and Cleo. - Shakespeare.

ON leaving Mrs Gossall Sir Edward Mainwaring rode back to Burybridge,
whence after a hasty lunch and the despatch of a telegram to the Earl he
ascertained by telephone that Canon Merehaven was at Bevingham.

Chartering a car he proceeded there at once and just out hide the
rectory gates encountered Dr. Mallam.

"By the way, Doctor," he said, "I've just been prescribing for one of
your patients!"

"Ha! who may that be?" queried the other. "A Monthurst girl, the
step-daughter of a Mrs Bishop. Strange to say, I have this morning
discovered that she, Mrs Bishop, is the sister of a lady I knew years
ago."

"Strange indeed, but what about my patient? How's she getting along?"

"Oh, I didn't see the girl, but her step-mother seemed a good deal
troubled about her. You think she's sure to pull through, eh?"

"She's not altogether a satisfactory case," returned Dr. Mallum, shaking
his head; "Girls are subject to queer notions; sometimes they appear
indeed to be really enamoured of death, and Hetty Bishop seems
determined to shirk her duty which is to get well as soon as possible.
If she doesn't take a turn for the better shortly she'll lose her chance
altogether. But what's your prescription?"

"How about a sail out to Sydney, in October, Doctor?"

"The very thing, if you can persuade the girl to go, hut hitherto she
has done little more than mope about the house since I insisted upon her
getting up."

"But what should make a good-looking girl like Hetty Bishop want to
die?" asked the baronet, and his question was more purposeful than it
sounded.

"Ah, that's more than I can tell," rejoined the doctor, who was silent
as the grave as to secrets revealed in delirium. "The voyage will be a
veritable god-send for her, and I'll see she goes, that is if you
include the mother in your invitation."

"Certainly, that goes without saying."

A minute later the baronet surprised the Canon in his cool study with
the words, "Thank God, you are at home ! Now can you tell me whether Sir
Howard Cressingham's party has returned from Italy?"

"My dear Edward, you quite take my breath away. Sit down and tell me
what is the meaning of this welcome but unexpected visit?"

Thus admonished Sir Edward sank into the nearest chair saying, "Forgive
me, but I've important business on hand, and if you can get me any
information about Sir Howard I shall be most grateful. Do they know of
his whereabouts at the Priory?"

"The Squire and Mrs Bevingham with Lady Howard Cressingham and Miss
Barton are cruising in the Norwegian Fiords. I'll try whether I can
speak to any of Sir Howard's folks--and find out where he is."

"Thanks awfully," and ten minutes later the baronet was arranging to met
Sir Howard that evening in Chesterdoge.

"And now what is it all about?" was the Canon's very natural remark when
his friend, having arranged that the chauffeur who had brought him from
Burybridge should be in readiness to convey him to Chesterdoge at five
o'clock, was once again seated in the study.

"My dear Canon, I owe you a thousand apologies, but I think you will
forgive my apparent rudeness when I tell you, in strict confidence, that
Harry Marston, the sculptor-genius, is grandson and heir to my uncle,
the Earl."

"Never!" came emphatically and spontaneously from the lips of the older
man.

"You may well say ' never,' for, as you are well aware, my uncle's only
son, Lord Henry Marston, has been dead for more than twenty years, and
until the day before yesterday not one of his relations had the ghost of
an idea that he had ever married."

"Astonishing, most astonishing! And you have, of course, my dear Edward,
excellent reasons for entertaining the young man's claim?"

" Claim? Why, there is no claim--that is just the marvellous part of the
whole business. The young man himself is in utter ignorance both of his
parentage and prospects. I don't even know where he is, that's why I
came on here. As for my uncle he doesn't know more, indeed not as much
as you do of the new heir; I didn't even telegraph the latter's name to
him, and I only learnt that myself just before noon to-day."

"This is all very mystifying, Edward, and I shall be relieved when you
condescend to explain. I suppose the information simply dropped from the
clouds?"

The baronet smiled. "It really is the most extraordinary case I ever
heard of," he admitted. "As I said before no claim whatever has been
made by or for anyone. But two days ago, when I was staying at
Brudenham, the Earl received an unsigned letter with no intimation from
whence it had come but the post-mark on the stamp, ' Napoli
Ferroviari.'"

"Italy!" ejaculated the interested listener. "It seems a far cry from
Monthurst to Italy. Could someone out there have seen the chap and
recognised a likeness to Henry?"

"Nothing of the kind, as you shall see for yourself," and here the
speaker drew a packet of papers from his breast-pocket, and removing the
confining elastic-band, extracted one which he handed to his friend
saying, "Read that and the enclosure aloud, please; the enclosure
first."

The Canon, laying aside his cigar and adjusting his pince-nez, selected
what was evidently a newspaper cutting. It ran as follows:

"The health of the Earl of Brudenham, now in his 79th year is causing
his friends considerable uneasiness. It is twenty years since his only
son, Lord Henry Marston, who never married, was killed by the descent of
an avalanche upon the diligence by which he was travelling from
Chamounix to Martigny. The heir to the Earldom and estates of Brudenham,
the Honble. and Rev. Reginald Brinsfield, is the only son of the Earl's
only daughter and child by his first wife. He is at present, we
understand, fulfilling the office of chaplain to the little English
church at Finshauts in the very neighbourhood where his uncle met with
the fatal accident. The Hon. and Rev. gentleman is well known for his
energetic advocacy of the claims of the R.R.U.S., of which he has been
president for the past three months, and is regarded as the coming man
among psychists."

"They have the electric railway there now," observed the baronet, his
thoughts busy with the tragic event which had brought so much trouble to
Brudenham, " and now for the letter, Canon!"

"Neither heading nor date," commented the latter, " evidently the writer
plunges at once in medias res."

"To my lord the Earl of Brudenham. --The enclosed paragraph is my excuse
for addressing you, my object will be apparent after a perusal of the
facts following. Some eighteen years ago I received at the confessional
a woman whose face I never saw and whose name I did not ask. She desired
absolution for having stolen, some twelve years before, from the desk of
Lord Henry Marston's wife the certificates of that nobleman's marriage,
and the birth of his son. In answer to my enquiry she acknowledged that
at the time of the robbery the son was perhaps a month old, that she had
since ascertained that the mother died before the boy was five weeks old
and she supposed, as she could learn no tidings of him, that the child
died at the same time. I, however, refused her absolution unless she
promised at once to make your lordship aware of the facts she detailed,
and return the stolen property, but from the enclosed newspaper cutting
I gather you have never been told of your son's marriage or the birth of
his son and heir.

This may or may not be the fault of the penitent whom I never met again.
The matter is one solely for your own ear, and also for the exercise of
your discretion. I can render you neither further information nor
assistance, and therefore sign myself only, Your lordship's obedient
Servant, An ex-confessor of the Holy Roman Church."

"Most extraordinary!" exclaimed the Canon, " yet it carries the stamp of
truth about it. I thought, though that no priest could reveal, except
under grievous penalties, the secrets of the confessional."

"That is so, but you see this man is evidently no longer subject to the
laws of his church, and had refused the woman absolution unless she
owned up and returned the certificates to the Earl. As she didn't fulfil
her part of the bargain I suppose he feels himself responsible."

"Perhaps so, but who could Harry have married? You know his mother was
most anxious to bring about a match between him and one of the Godolphin
girls?"

"Yes, and no doubt her anxiety led Henry to keep his marriage with Miss
Bourke so secret."

"Miss Bourke?" exclaimed the Canon in great amaze. "Do you mean to say
that Henry actually married Miss Bourke, the pretty Irish woman? What a
lovely voice she had!" and unconsciously the speaker sighed.

" I think we were all of us a little ' mad ' over Patricia Bourke in
those days--but it must have been quite seven years after she left Lady
Brinsfield that Henry married her."

"But tell me how you have discovered in two days facts, and facts of
such immense importance too, which have lain so many years hidden away
from the wise and prudent? How, for example, did you connect this young
sculptor chap with the affair? The family name Marston – ah, I see! And
Brinsfield? Does he know of this denoument to oust him from his expected
inheritance?"

"No, and by Jove, he mustn't know anything till matters are a little
more in shape. No doubt he'll have something to say--and I'll own I felt
glad the vicarage was empty when I rode into Monthurst this morning."

"Oh you came that way, did you?"

"Well, yes, or I shouldn't have been able to tell you that Harry Marston
is Henry's son."

"But what made you go there for after all? ' Marston ' is not by any
means an uncommon name?"

"Ha, that is another astonishing incident in this extraordinary affair.
Who, think you, put me on the scent?" As the Canon shook his head in
mock impotency the baronet continued, "Why none other than old Dame
Gossall at the post office."

"Well, you will always be able to say a good word for the gossips now,
Edward--but what did she know of the business?"

"It wasn't her knowledge, for she knows nothing about it (and
fortunately this morning made no reference to the lad) but her lack of
knowledge, combined with her determination to obtain knowledge, that
helped to put me on the right track."

"Ah, I remember now you told us she had referred to some of her
neighbours as ' walking-stinging nettles,' and didn't you tell us too,
that she was determined to unearth the parentage of this young genius,
when we were dining at the Vicarage?"

"That is so, and naturally when a son was wanted I thought of the boy
whose birth was veiled in obscurity, whose age corresponds with the date
so miraculously, as it were, supplied to us, and who moreover bears the
Brudenham family name."

"How simple the solution after you were in possession of the priest's
letter. But who do you make out the thief to have been?"

"Signora Marquetti without a doubt and that --"

"What! That singer the Countess made so much of?"

"Yes, but, my dear friend, we've got to find her and the marriage and
birth certificates before we can establish any claim."

"I'm still puzzled as to how you know what you do know," said the Canon;
" this Mrs Bishop, who took the lad to board from the Union, could not
have been aware of his identity of course, or she would have
acknowledged it long ago."

"Ah, there's another strange incident in this remarkable case. Mrs
Bishop, as I discovered this morning, is own sister to Patricia Bourke,
or as I should say, Lady Henry Marston."

"And do you mean to tell me that she has all along known who the boy's
father was and yet wilfully refrained from speaking? Why, it's a
monstrous injustice to the lad and --"

"Don't judge her too harshly--though I'll own she has been a very foolish
woman. She knew her sister called herself Marston, but did not know
more--there was some justification for her silence. You must understand
that she had absolutely no proof of her sister's marriage, that indeed
she regarded Patricia as the mistress of Henry, and you know what that
means for an Irish woman--she would rather have died than have had to
acknowledge that such a stain rested on the name of Bourke."

"Then I suppose the sisters had seen very little of each other for some
years before Henry's marriage with Patricia?"

"That is so. When I called this morning I found Mrs Bishop all bristles
until I made it quite clear that I had certain information as to the
marriage and fatherhood of Lord Henry Marston, and that I must know all
about the young man whom she had boarded out from the Hurstwick Union
when a boy."

"You didn't know or guess then that she was related to Patricia Bourke?"

"I had no more idea than the dead, and I was as astonished as I was
delighted when the woman broke down completely and gave me the fullest
possible information."

"I've no doubt it was a relief to the poor creature to tell the whole
history."

"I feel sure it was, apart from her gladness that her sister's
reputation was established beyond dispute. And we have nothing to be
ashamed of in young Harry's maternal relations. His mother and Mrs
Bishop (his Aunt Judith) were the only children of a student without
ambitions, who held the living of the small hamlet of Whitestone, in Co.
Dublin, in the late 'seventies. They were miserably poor, mid when
Patricia was seventeen she determined to make her own way in the world,
and owe nothing either to her parents or outsiders."

"Of course the father gave them a good education. Patricia seemed to me
unusually gifted."

"Yes, she had beauty, high spirits, and that incommunicable treasure, '
charm,' and Mrs Bishop tells me she herself was in every way the
opposite of her sister."

"So there was little sympathy between them?"

"None whatever, for the elder, Judith, regarded Patricia's resolve to be
independent as unwomanly, and her high spirits as bound to bring her to
harm. When the father died they were further removed from each other,
for the sole source of income for the widow and Judith consisted of the
interest on his insurance eked out by the latter's needle. Patricia
returned to England, saying she would never be a burden upon them, and
Judith never forgave her for not going when summoned to her mother's
deathbed. As a matter of fact Patricia was not then in a condition to
travel."

"Dear, dear. And she was bound, I suppose, by her promise to Henry not
to reveal her marriage. Poor thing!"

"Yes, these secret marriages usually prove sad affairs for the wife.
Henry certainly doesn't come well out of this business," and the baronet
shook his head. "He hadn't the courage to tell his father that he had
married the daughter of an obscure, penniless clergyman, though I
believe the Earl would have welcomed the girl, for he has never cared
for Brinsfield. Henry's death was a great blow to him."

"I fancy Henry feared the Countess's sarcasm more than his father's
anger, and probably felt she would lead his wife a miserable life."

"He ought, of course, to have acknowledged and then shielded her," said
Sir Edward decidedly. "It would be just about the time the child was
born," he continued, as though reminded bit by bit of incidents long
forgotten, " that Henry offered to accompany me part of the way to
Brindisi on my return to Sydney. I remember strongly urging him to give
up all his intrigues and go home and settle down."

"Wouldn't he promise? I always liked Henry."

"He promised, right enough, but laughed and said he wouldn't marry."

"And all the time he was married! Would there be a child perhaps,"
ventured the Canon tentatively, " a child of the Marquetti out in
Italy?"

"Ha, I shouldn't wonder," returned the other slowly, " that might
account for his leaving his wife just then."

"Probably she insisted upon his going."

"Quite likely, and he may have found it necessary to write to Marquetti
on the matter."

"That would explain how she knew where he was, but it's strange she
should have known the whereabouts of the young wife," remarked the
baronet.

"Strange and most unfortunate," returned the Canon. "There are many
points to be cleared up before you can establish your case, Edward."

"Yes, indeed, there's a lot to be discovered, but from what Mrs Bishop
told me this morning this Italian went to see Patricia the week before
her death, and then must have gone direct to Henry, probably meeting him
at Chamounix, for her name, you may remember, was in the list of
passengers in the accident which brought death to Henry." '

Of course, I remember now, and also how we all avoided speaking of the
fact. But didn't the Earl himself go over and bring Henry's body back?"

"He did. You see I was then on my way to Sydney. Yesterday the Earl and
I went all through the papers connected with that sad time, and we felt
convinced that the Italian woman must have been the thief, for had she
been married to Henry she would not have failed to come forward and
claim her title."

"Possibly she was ashamed of herself, for I never heard that your uncle
saw anything of her when he went out."

"No, at first he had no wish to see her, and a twelve-month later, when
he desired to do so, he could get no tidings of her. By the by, Mrs
Bishop gave me two letters this morning. She found them at the lodgings
where young Harry was born and his mother died."

"Then the sisters were together at the last?"

"Unfortunately not, but Patricia, perhaps having some premonition of
death, scribbled a few lines to her sister begging her to go to her at
once. Mrs Bishop having then only been married a few months, had removed
into Co. Wicklow, so the letter did not reach her for a day or two and
though she set out immediately on its receipt she arrived too late. She
understood that the child was born at Hurstwick but that the mother, as
soon as she was able, went on to Chesterdoge in order, I suppose, to be
nearer to Brudenham Castle on Harry's return."

"Have the registers at Hurstwick been examined?"

"Yes! and drawn blank."

"Then how did the boy get into the workhouse?"

But at this moment the Canon's housekeeper announced that tea was ready
in the drawing-room, and thither the two friends went, for it wanted but
a quarter to five.

CHAPTER XIII

What is there in this world that is half so valuable to us as to love
one another and to live in the hope of loving one another for ever?
Carlyle's Letters.

TWILIGHT had descended upon Monthurst as the marvellous story fell bit
by bit from Mrs Bishop's lips, and was pieced into coherence by her
interested listener.

"It seems all so plain now, child, since Sir Edward came and told me of
the priest's letter, but then--ah!"

"Oh, that wicked, wicked creature," exclaimed Hetty for the fiftieth
time, " how I hope she will be found and well punished."

"If the Earl gets the certificates I daresay he will let the wretched
woman go scot-free--though hanging seems almost too good for her. If it
had not been for her terrible lies I should have believed 'Tricia; as it
was, I felt the only thing I could do was to hide her shame from the
world. I ought to have known better."

"But why, mother, were you so ready to think badly of her?" asked the
girl gently.

"Ah, my child," and the speaker sighed deeply, "Patricia and I were as
different as possible in every way. She, beautiful--oh, she was
handsome--high-spirited, ambitious, while I was always self-conscious,
anxious to escape observation, satisfied to be mending and making in our
poor little place, and thinking myself the more worthy."

"And 'Tricia wouldn't stop at home?" queried Hetty, deeply interested in
every detail. "No, you see we had both been well taught by our father,
who was a University man, but, like me, had no ambition or he might have
made a great name for himself. One day Patricia told us she had got a
post as companion to the little daughter of the Lady Mary Brinsfield."

"Oh, mother, would that be any relation to Mr Brinsfield here?"

"The Lady Mary was his mother--but he was eight or nine years old when
his little sister, whom Patricia taught, was born."

"And is that why you forbade me to go to the vicarage?"

Mrs Bishop nodded an affirmative.

"Then did you know who they were when you came here to live?" was
Hetty's next enquiry.

"The Brinsfields were not here when I came or I should certainly not
have settled in Monthurst."

"But now tell me," interrupted the girl, " where your sister met Lord
Henry Marston?"

"They would meet at Brudenham Castle, and very likely he would go over
to his step-sister's place. I think 'Tricia was five years with the Lady
Mary Brinsfield, and I think it was very likely because she found Lord
Henry too attentive that she left when she did. Poor 'Tricia!"

"And afterwards he must have found her, and at last have persuaded her,"
said Hetty, who was thinking how splendid it must be to be loved like
that.

"If only I hadn't been so hard--then she would have told me everything.
But I did go just as soon as I got her letter. Your father was very kind
and would have gone with me but I said I should manage all right. We
travelled together to London where he had business but I begged him not
to wait for me. Ah, if I had only trusted him--if I hadn't imagined
things were wrong with Patricia everything would have been different!"

And Hetty, with the sympathy born of her late enlightment as to the
wonderful and woeful effects imagination was capable of producing,
pressed the woman's hand while she said tenderly:

"Never mind now, mother, I expect I should have done the same: the
certificates were gone and there was no Mr Marston."

"There was a letter from him written when he was at Chamounix, I think,
but it was only signed ' Henry.' It said he would be seeing Patricia in
a few days and that she was to take care of herself. Evidently he hadn't
heard then of Harry's birth, but I don't know--perhaps he didn't leave
her till after he was born."

"And you didn't tell my father that?"

"By the date on the letter the writer ought to have been at Chesterdoge
quite six days before Patricia died, so it looked as though he was not
very anxious to get back to her, though it was a very kind letter. But
it was the Italian woman's story that destroyed every vestige of hope I
had entertained that, after all, things would turn out right."

"She was an awful, an awfully wicked woman, but you never saw her did
you?"

"No, I only wish I had. But she had a long talk with the landlady, Mrs
Maund, after she had spent an hour with my sister. There is no doubt
that she put chloroform to 'Tricia's nose and that while she slept she
took the keys from under the pillow and searched her desk. It is quite
possible, though, 'Tricia may have said that if anything happened before
' Mr. Marston ' returned, the marriage and birth certificates would be
found all right."

"Do you think she was unkind to your sister, mother?"

"Unkind?" echoed the other, " she couldn't have been more cruel had she
killed her outright. When Mrs Maund (the landlady) told me that the
beautiful, dark lady had assured her that she was herself the wife of
Harry's father--showed her indeed the certificate of her marriage what
could I do but believe her?"

"And that was all the time your sister's marriage certificate! Oh,
mother," and the girl broke down utterly, '" why, why does God let
people be so wicked and let the good ones suffer so terribly? And,
Harry, poor Harry!"

The two mingled blessed tears, and then Hetty asked if Mrs Maund did not
find out about the chloroform.

"She only noticed that the window was wide open, and a sickly sort of
odour in the room, when she went in an hour later, for the Italian had
told her that 'Tricia was sleeping sweetly and ought not to be
disturbed. Mrs Maund was very sorry for 'Tricia; she said it was
terrible to think how girls were led astray, for the Italian pretended
that she had only just heard of ' her husband's ' wickedness and was
going straight away to Switzerland to meet him that night. She wished
'Tricia and Harry to be well cared for, and left money with Mrs Maund
for the purpose, but impressed upon the woman that she must on no
account speak of these things to 'Tricia or she might make her very ill
indeed. But there is no doubt that 'Tricia was quite upset by that visit
for she was very ill that night and died a week later."

Hetty wiped her eyes, which indignation helped to dry--the whole story
was a complete and disturbing revelation.

"Wicked, wicked creature! No doubt she hastened your sister's death, and
what good would the certificates be to her?"

"From what I know, I judge that she was so carried away by jealousy that
she hardly knew what she was doing. Perhaps she thought she might
persuade Lord Henry to go to her, or to cast off Patricia if she had
those certificates."

"But your sister could have got a copy couldn't she?"

"I think so, and no doubt all would have been right had Lord Henry
lived. You see, I didn't for a moment think that ' Mr Marston ' was Lord
Henry, though I expected he was related to the Brudenham family."

"Oh, how I wish, mother, you had brought baby Harry back to Ireland with
you. It seems so dreadful he should have had to go to the workhouse."

"Yes, but thank God, he was only there a few weeks. No one knows, child,
what I suffered those five years after Patricia died. For many months I
indulged the hope that ' Mr Marston ' would go back to Mrs Maund's, and
I came over once, for your father kindly let me do so, to put a stone up
to my sister's memory. Then I gave Mrs Maund more money, and she was so
fond of the child I felt quite happy about him."

"Why, then, did she let him go to the Union?"

"She left Chesterdoge to live at Hurstwick but she hadn't been there a
month when a fire broke out in her cottage. Harry was saved, but the
poor woman was so dreadfully burnt she died the day after. Everything
was burnt and nobody knew who she was or whether Harry was her own
child. I knew nothing till I got to Chesterdoge after your father's
death, and I had great difficulty in tracing her."

"And what made you come and live here, mother?" was Hetty's next
question. "I wanted to be in a quiet place and I remembered your father
saying that a clergyman-friend of his father's, Canon Merehaven, lived
in a lovely little village near Chesterdoge. So I came and had a look
round before I decided to leave Hurstwick for good. There was no cottage
to be had at Bevingham, and I was advised by the agents at Burybridge to
try Monthurst. I liked the look of this, I took it, then did all in my
power to get the Hurstwick Guardians to let Harry come with me here."

"Poor mother," said Hetty softly, "I suppose you couldn't afford to
adopt him outright?"

"Your father's long illness ran away with a lot of his savings, and
mining shares he had largely speculated in paid nothing at all. Besides,
I had no right to use the little your father left to bring up my
sister's child; that money was, and is, rightly yours. But I made up my
mind to work at the Irish lace-making again and try to save a little for
Harry; and I let you work because I knew it was better for you to work
than to be idle, besides you have quite a gift for millinery. Oh, Hetty,
when I married I meant to I love you so much that you would never know I
was not your very own mother, but when I realised all that my silence to
your father meant for Harry, my own nephew, my heart seemed turned to
stone, and I became hard and horrid."

And the speaker furtively brushed the tears from her eyes while Hetty
put her arms about her and said in crooning tones, "Never mind, never
mind, dear! And all this misery came through that wicked creature!"

"No, no, not all. I acted very foolishly, and Patricia and Lord Henry
Marston ought never to have concealed their marriage from their parents.
His mother was so upset by his death she did not long survive him Sir
Edward told me this morning."

"Well, now Harry will have to go and live at the castle, I suppose,"
Hetty forced herself to say.

"Yes, there is no doubt of that, but when we come back from our sail I
am quite sure he will want to have us both there."

"But can't we stay out in Australia, mother?" and the girl's tones
betrayed anxiety. "I should like to live there always I think."

"Well, we shall see how we like things when we get out there. You might
wish to buy a little place of your own, either there or here. Strange to
say I heard last week that the mine your father took so many shares in
will begin to pay dividends at Christmas, so both you and Harry will be
provided for about the same time. But," and here the speaker drew the
girl's head to her breast and spoke with a tenderness that brought the
tears to Hetty's eyes, "I've always blamed myself, child, for letting
you and Harry be so much together as you were in Hurstwick. I felt you
ought to have the chance at least of seeing someone else and --"

"Oh, mother, I'm never going to marry. I told Harry the night before he
went to Italy that he would be falling in love with Miss Barton. Don't
you think she is just the very one to be his wife?"

"I have never seen her, my dear, and I scarcely think Harry knows what
it is to be in love with anything but his work. I wonder how he will
take this wonderful change."

"Yes, I wonder, mother, for he always seems to pride himself on being '
a poor, penniless sculptor,' " and Hetty laughed. She was certainly
acting her new part bravely.

At bedtime, when the two exchanged warm kisses, the girl said shyly,
"Mother, I'm not going to read or think any more about--you know what."

"That's right, dear; no good either to body or mind can follow this
morbid craving for knowledge of life after death. Thank God, a brighter
life awaits us both this side the grave! Sleep well !"

CHAPTER XIV "Facts are nothing but the laggards, the spies and
camp-followers of the great forces we cannot see." If Sir Edward
Mainwaring had indulged the hope of finding young Marston at Sir Howard
Cressingham's place, he was doomed to disappointment. Indeed the latter
gentleman, probably scenting an attempt by a rich patron to capture his
talented and beloved pupil, met the baronet's initial enquiries with a
brevity bordering on rudeness. When, however, he understood that he was
invited to assist in solving the mystery of the young man's birth and
parentage, no one could have made a more hearty response.

"If, Sir, you can give him parents, preferably good ones, you will
supply, I am convinced, the one thing lacking not merely to his
happiness, but to his success as an artist. Though he and I have only
once alluded to the subject I have no hesitation in saying, that his own
ignorance, and the speaking silence everybody has maintained on this
matter, have brooded like a nightmare over his boyhood and youth. You
ask how I became acquainted with him? Well, it must be more than eight
years since he was brought to my notice by Mr Camden, then a Government
Inspector of Schools. Knowing me to be interested in the discovery of
talent, he mentioned, when dining here on one occasion, that he had come
upon some remarkable drawings and clay modellings by a boy of ten or
twelve in Monthurst village school. "If you want to catch your sculptor
young and poor," said he, "I think you couldn't do better than look that
lad up."

"You went over later and saw Mrs Bishop I understand?"

"I did, and a dour body she seemed, could give me no information as to
the boy's parents, but believed him to be an orphan. She said the
Hurstwick Board of Guardians, who had accepted her offer to receive him
as their boarder, were talking of apprenticing the lad to the
shoemaking. She called the boy in, and then and there I took a liking to
him, a liking which I flatter myself was reciprocated."

"Of course he was only too glad to follow his natural bent, and has he
been under your care, sir, ever since?"

"I at once interviewed some of the Guardians, and later made a definite
offer in writing to relieve them and everybody else of any expense in
connection with his upbringing. I was indeed rather glad at the time
that there were no inconvenient parents to treat with, but now, now that
he will shortly be of age, and as I am convinced the mystery of his
birth not only does, but will seriously affect his prospects, I am
prepared to do everything in my power to solve it, though I am not ready
to give him up altogether."

"You are most generous, Sir Howard, and the young man, I am sure, will
never lose the sense of his indebtedness to you."

"Tut, tut, that's nothing! The lad has repaid me twice over for any
services I have rendered. No doubt, though, in after years he will value
more highly the wide general education he has received while with me,
than even the special one connected with his art. Yet for that I am not
altogether responsible. I found him, my dear Sir Edward, hungry, avid
for learning. He appeared indeed ready and able to absorb knowledge of
any and every kind, and it was at the earnest request of the Head-master
of our Grammar School, that I kept him there till he was seventeen, and
permitted him after that age to attend classes for languages, in several
of which, French, Italian and German, he is quite proficient."

"This is very good hearing indeed, for if, as I hope, the clue we hold
to his identity is not a false one, he will be at no loss whatever
position he may be called upon to fill. And all this in addition to the
profession you have so generously put into his hand !"

"Oh, as for that," interrupted the other, " it was a hobby with me to
found a school for sculpture (one must be doing something these days,
you know) " and a whimsical smile accompanied the speaker's parenthesis,
" a school to enter which native, and undoubted talent, coupled with
poverty were the only recognised essentials. But I'm bound to tell you
I've had more disappointments than successes there."

A look from his listener produced a somewhat hesitating response.

"You see,"and again the whimsical smile flitted over the thin, shaven
face, " my wife was never very keen about the School, indeed has been
always ready with a douche (a cold one, too!) for it. Then some two
years ago scarlet fever broke out in the house in which my six art
pupils were established. Sad to say one died--a very unfortunate
business, so I gave up the house. The other four, exclusive of Harry,
had parents or friends in the neighbourhood, and as they were in a
position to work for pay, I gave them the opportunity of accepting
employment with me or elsewhere, as they might choose. As a matter of
fact they are all remained with me and very good workmen they are."

"Then Marston?" ventured the baronet.

" He was very busy at the time on some designs, and when the trouble of
the fever had died down and all danger of infection over, I set aside a
couple of rooms here for his sole use. I also arranged to pay him a
small sum quarterly, sufficient to keep him in clothes and a trifle
over, and this sum I increased by £10 six months ago."

"There seems no end, my dear Sir Howard, to the catalogue of your
benefactions, and certainly not the least of them was the inestimable
advantage of the associations of a refined home."

"I don't know about that," returned the other, " and l won't say
anything about it, for though I made it abundantly clear that I expected
him to take at least the evening meal with us, he never managed to be
back in time for it. Sometimes he would tell me he had been detained in
the studio, or that he had evening-classes, or that he was taking supper
with Mr -- one of the bachelor Grammar-Schoolmasters, or that he had
cycled over to Monthurst to see the Bishops. So at last I ceased to
expect him."

The baronet looked grave, and was evidently inclined to censure the
young man, but Cressingham remarked apologetically :

"Oh, don't blame him, I don't. He was no doubt happier by himself, for
if ever I looked in upon him when taking his supper, I always found his
attention about equally divided between the eatables and one or more
books open beside his plate. I know you won't give me away if I tell you
that, about twelve months ago, I accidentally came across a note-book of
his entitled ' Ideas for my Chisel.' It was then fairly filled with
excerpts picked up in his readings, which had appealed to him by their
beauty or objectivity or rarity."

"I hope he is not by any chance a prig," remarked Mainwaring with mock
apprehensiveness.

"Well," laughed Cressingham, "I'll leave you to answer that question
when you see him. He is undoubtedly a very clever fellow, and must have
absorbed any amount of knowledge on Art, especially sculptural Art, and
I should say he's chock-full of poetry."

"Oh, come, you alarm me!"

"You've no cause for alarm, my dear sir, for he's one of my most
industrious pupils. What he lacks is ambition, some grand motive for
putting all his powers in play."

"A love affair might do that," suggested the baronet. "He'll have no
love affair, I'll be bound," was the other's confident response, " until
the mystery of his birth is solved."

"Now, when do you expect him back?"

"Not for another three or four weeks," was the disconcerting
announcement.

"But can't you or I get into communication with him at once?" urged
Mainwaring; " three days, or even three hours should bring us in touch
with any European village outside Russia, and I assure you, my dear
Cressingham, every minute is of importance."

"Well, I can tell you where he expects to be within the next three or
four days," and Sir Howard drew a letter from some half-dozen he turned
out of his vest pocket. "I made him promise when we parted that he would
write a clear month before his return, giving me an address that would
find him for some ten days or so, in case I might have any commission to
give him for marble, casts and so on. This letter fulfilling his
promise, arrived yesterday, ' Possagno, Poste Restante,' will find him,
he says, up to October 12th."

"Excellent, excellent!" ejaculated Sir Edward, " might I -- ?"

"Certainly," said Cressingham, replying to the other's unspoken
question, "I will write to him, but what am I to say?"

"Allow me one moment," returned the baronet, and after an almost
imperceptible silence, he continued, "I am compelled to go to Milan in
connection with this business by the end of next week at latest. "Will
you be good enough to propose that your pupil meets me at Castiglione
either on the 10th or 12th of October? Castiglione delle Stiviere will
In' mi ideal rendezvous for an interview so fraught with importance. I
am, moreover, anxious to re-visit that neighbourhood before I hand over
to the publishers my third, and last volume on Italian Battlefields. By
the by, there must be no hint given of the real object of the interview,
Sir Howard, for we have yet to find the certificate of a secret marriage
as well as that of the boy's birth. So will you say that a gentleman
desires to see him about a commission for the School?"

"That's very good of you, my dear sir, and will certainly prove a strong
inducement to Marston to go a little out of his way."

"Oh, if he's travelling home via Milan he will have no difficulty. I
forget the name of the nearest station to Castaglione, but he'll soon
find that out. A steam train runs, I believe, from Lonato. He'll come, I
expect, by the Verona-Milan route, but I would advise him to take a
carriage when he leaves the train. It will be a momentous meeting for me
as well as for him," continued the baronet, " for if our suspicions, our
hopes rather, are well-founded, I knew both his parents, and naturallly
I shall be on the look out for points of resemblance."

"Well, don't rob me of him altogether!" said the other, with his
delightful smile.

And the two men parted the best of friends, the baronet leaving an
address with Cressingham that would find him in Milan, as well as that
of the Hotel Corona, Castiglione delle Stiviere. …………………………………………………
"Ah, Victoria, Victoria ! if you had only been a little decent to the
lad," murmured Sir Howard as, on Mainwaring's departure, he sat down to
write the promised letter to Marston.

That despatched he proceeded to the library and spent the next half-hour
conning the long paragraph attached to the title, "Brudenham,
family-name Marston," in Debrett's Peerage.

"I wonder, I wonder," he soliloquised as he returned it to the shelf.
"Yes, Victoria was perhaps right in thinking Isobel's illness had to do
with Harry's departure."

CHAPTER XV 'Tis with our judgment as our watches; none Go just alike,
yet each believes his own. Pope.

THE next few days were exceedingly full ones both for the baronet and
Jemima Gossall. The latter, to the wholesale neglect of her domestic
concerns, lost no movement of " the walking stinging nettles " between
the hours of 7 A.M and 8 P.M., and when her eyes were freed from their
self-imposed task her tongue ran on at such a pace that Gossall,
seasoned listener as he was, would now and again mutter an audible "D---
the woman, shet up can't yer!"

"TelI'd me he know'd Missus Bishopses' sister 'ears an' 'ears ago, but
Ameelyar Beddoes you'll bear me out when I says if Hett Bishop were
squint-eyed, or owned a nose you might hang yer hat on same as Amanda
Higgins, the bar'net ud never give her an' her step-mother a chancst to
goo over seas. Good lord ! to think as a woman o' Missus Bishopses' age
should accep' such favours knowin' well, as she must do, why they're
offered. Thank goodness I've allus stood off from her, never have liked
her since her first come to the village, an' I've never kep' up any
connection with her or the girl. I know'd there was a summat to hide as
far back as when she took that lad from the Hurst'ick Guardians. Well,
nobody ull cry if they leave the place, That's certain sure."

It had been quite impossible for her customer, the shoe-maker's wife, to
get in a word edgeways, as the saying goes, and she was leisurely
backing out of the little shop when Mrs Gossall beckoned her forward
again.

"Now, look here, Ameelyar "--and the speaker assumed an impressive tone
and air--"Yest'day they was off afore nine o'clock in a fly! Yah, I've no
patience even to talk of 'em. Of coorse, he's payin' all, an' mark my
words, Ameelyar, when they've gone right off if he don't go wi' 'em, as
sure as fate he'll follow. I can't quite make out the ezact day as they
go for good, but Brettel's got a trunk o' theirs a-mendin', an' they
won't go till they've got that back. Here, stop a minute, what I wanted
to say is, somebody ought to tell the gell as rich men don't spend their
money on the likes of them for nothing, an' as Missus Brinsfield's away
an' won't be back for a week I think as you, Ameelyar, ought to see an'
open Hett Bishopses' eyes."

"Not I, not I, not I ! a thousand times not I!" burst impulsively from
Mrs Beddoes; "I'm never going to hinterfere with the girl no more. An'
you've no right, as I sees, to make evil out of a kindness."

At this moment a fly was'heard approaching from Burybridge, and Jemima
Gossall hurried to join her customer at the shop door.

"Then they was out all night," she remarked, sotto voce. "I knew I never
heard 'em come back, an' haven't seen 'em about all day. Yes, there they
are. My, how quick we be ! Ashamed of theirselves, as well they may be."

The driver had evidently received his fare in advance and Mrs Bishop,
producing the key of the cottage, so quickly unlocked the door, which
then closed upon herself and Hetty, that the lookers on had scarcely a
glimpse of them.

"I don't see they're any different to usule," remarked Mrs Beddoes, as
the flyman drove back the way he had come. "They allus was what I call
genteel, knew how to put their clothes on, an' all that, a good two or
three notches above either you or me, Jemima!"

"Ah, may be. I never studied clothes, an' looks ain't nothin' to go by,"
returned the other drily. "If they've more money ner you or I have--an'
knows how to add it up, an' double it better ner us, yet I'll answer for
you an' myself too, us oodn't sell a child of ourn, soul and body, for
filthy luker--well, you are in a vi'lent hurry. Goodnight !"

Though really lamentable that a woman old enough to know better should
leave no filth unturned in order to make deadly mischief of an act of
simple goodness, it was perhaps a fortunate circumstance that Sir Edward
Mainwaring had acquainted Jemima Gossall with his desire to send Hetty
for a sail, and establish her and her step-mother on his Australian
estate if they were agreeable to his proposition. For these facts
explained entirely to the satisfaction of the malicious gossip the
comings and goings of " the walking stinging nettles," and at the same
time prevented the actual object of such movements from becoming known
to the whole village.

Had she been kept entirely in the dark she would have found means to
discover the why and wherefore of movements resulting in the spending of
at least one whole night and nearly two whole days away from the
village, and so the baronet's desire for secrecy until matters should be
further advanced in regard to Harry Marston's position, would have been
frustrated and the Brinsfields among the first to learn of the coming
denoument.

He had met Mrs Bishop and Hetty on their arrival at Chesterdoge the
previous day, and drove with them direct to the office of the family
solicitors, where the former was examined on oath of all she knew in
connection with the boy's birth. All three then went on in the car to
Brudenham Castle, and were received by the Earl with marked cordiality.
While he and Mrs Bishop had a long talk in his private room, Sir Edward
took Hetty into the beautiful grounds and quietly broaching the subject
of the proposed trip to Sydney found, to his relief and delight, that
the girl was now in full accord with Dr. Mallam as to the advisability
of a long sail and the importance of its being made without delay.

"It is very, very kind of you, sir, to think of it," she said, her face
overspread by a rosy shyness. "I would like to go soon."

"Very soon?" he ventured.

"I think we could go next week if that wouldn't be too soon for you to
arrange, sir."

"Oh. I can cable any hour, but you won't arrive, you know, for quite
three months. Do you like the sea?"

"I hardly know, sir," replied the girl. "I have only been once on it,
when mother and I came over from Ireland and I liked it very much then."

"And you want to get quite strong before Harry comes back, eh?"

"When will he be back?" came the eager response.

"Well, I'm going to Italy where he now is, within the next few days, and
I hope he'll join me there. Our lawyers are convinced that the Signora
Marquetti is to be found in her native country, and they think it most
probable she will not have destroyed those certificates she so wickedly
stole. I have to see an Italian firm of solicitors, and I may keep Harry
with me a few days, for I'm curious to see whether he is at all like
either of his parents and --"

"Oh, I am sure, sir," broke in Hetty impulsively, "I am sure he is like
the Earl."

"Do you think so?" returned the baronet delightedly. "Ah, there he is
with your mother on the terrace--we will join them."

But the old nobleman was not strong enough to go beyond the terrace and
when he left the three to return to the castle, Hetty exclaimed joyously
as she slipped her arm inside her mother's:

"Mother, Sir Edward thinks we may set out next week. Will not that be
lovely?"

"But we can't be ready, my dear child."

"I will telephone after lunch for cabins," said the baronet, " and do
not, Mrs Bishop, take the trouble to provide yourselves with rugs or
great coats, you will find those in your cabins. The steamship companies
do things so differently now to what they did when I went out twenty
years ago," he continued mendaciously.

"And it matters really very little what you wear on board. You will be
wiser indeed not to purchase anything until you get to Sydney. Many
people just throw their clothing into the sea." For now that he was well
under weigh the speaker found no difficulty whatever in dealing out
fiction which, in the ears of even occasional travellers, would have
carried with it its own denial.

Mrs Bishop, however, never thought of questioning his statements, and
after luncheon the respective merits of several vessels, together with
dates of sailing, were discussed and passages were eventually secured on
the fine ship "Redan," due to leave Southampton in eight days' time.

"I can never sufficiently thank you, my dear lady," said the Earl, in
taking leave of the two next morning, " for had you not cared for and
continued to keep your eye upon the boy almost from his birth we might
never have discovered him. Now I pray God that all the formalities and
legalities may soon be got over, and that I may spend at least a small
portion of my few remaining days with my long lost grandson. You, Miss
Hetty, have also been very good to the lad, and when you are quite
strong, as I feel sure you soon will be, you and your mother must come
and make a long stay at the castle. Harry, I know, will want you to do
so. Now remember you are both invited for his coming of age
festivities."

On the departure of the visitors the old nobleman remarked to Sir
Edward:

"Yes, it's just as well the girl should be away. She is very pretty and
quite a good girl I am sure, but it's better she shouldn't be here when
this young man, who you tell me is chock-full of poetry, finds himself
all at once the centre-piece of a very pretty romance."
…………………………………………………………. " Oh, mother, isn't it just a real fairy tale,"
exclaimed Hetty, as they were travelling back to Burybridge.

But when a week later the two had been met at Southampton by the Earl's
secretary, had been introduced by the baronet's commands to a near
neighbour of his, Mr Ferney, returning with his son to Sydney, and
finally conducted to the suite of state-rooms for two, private sitting
and bathroom, that the wonderful story of the past fortnight culminated
in unexpected brilliance.

"Mother, did you ever, ever, with all your imaginings, imagine anything
like this?" gasped the girl when the secretary, having assured himself
by heavy feeing that the travellers would receive every attention from
the stewardesses upwards, had left them free to examine the well-filled
trunk each found labelled with her name in the state-room. Mrs Bishop
stood aghast as she lifted out a handsome black velvet gown.

"Just look, Hetty!" she cried, " and it's trimmed with real Venetian !"

"Oh, but, mother, I've the loveliest, loveliest pale blue silk! Oh dear,
oh dear, here's the sweetest gold chain and a locket with the Earl's
photograph! How dear of him !"

The examination of those trunks proved an unfailing source of interest
during the whole of the voyage. Mrs Bishop had no scruples about donning
the beautiful rich garments, and insisted that Hetty should do so too,
for she recognised that their connection with the Earl, and their
position as the guests of the Baronet, necessitated a complete change in
dress and habits.

They had left Monthurst early before Jemima was up, and when that
individual, having discovered no signs of life about the cottage,
ventured, later in the day, to go close to the windows " for a peer,"
she found the furniture arranged as usual and the grandfather's clock
ticking on serenely, as though possessed of the same indifference and
the same determination as Tennyson's "Brook." Two days later Jemima was
convinced that " the walking stinging nettles " must have " gone for
good," for a gentleman, whom she set down as a lawyer's clerk, entered
the cottage on the second morning accompanied by a healthy looking
little woman of some sixty summers who had evidently " come to stop."

So the clock was enabled to keep up its pretensions, for the newcomer
took it with the rest of the furniture into her special care. But
Jemima, paying an early call, was completely nonplussed to learn on
enquiring for " they Bishopses " that the new arrival knew nothing about
them, had in fact never heard their names. She announced herself a
professional caretaker, and gave the intruder a strong hint that she was
quite used to her own company and indeed preferred it to any other.

"Ah, well. Missus Brinsfield ull be back next week," remarked the
defeated one after narrating her reception to the shoemaker's wife, "
then us 'ull hear, an' tell a few things."

"What'll her say, I wonder, when her hears as Missus Pakenham's took up
with spirits same as t' Vicar. Monthurst be got quite lively now," was
Sarah Ameelyar's rejoinder.

Meanwhile Sir Edward Mainwaring, having reached Milan, lost no time in
interviewing the head of the Italian firm of lawyers (to whom the Earl's
English solicitors had already stated a case) only to find him most
pessimistic.

"Conceive, my dear sir," commenced Signor Pietro Settamanare, pointing
his phrases with that wealth of hand and finger gesture so
characteristic of Italians, " that twenty, ay, more than twenty years
have elapsed since this presumed theft took place. I use the word '
presumed ' advisedly for have you even one small proof of the theft? No
not, one. Then this Signora Marquetti - Carlotta Marquetti, I should
say--do you give us her ancestry, her dwelling place? Ha, I thought not,"
and here the speaker shrugged his shoulders while he threw both palms
upwards as if to intimate he was prepared to throw the whole thing over.
"The advice from Messrs Lea & Bindwood suggests she may be found in a
convent--and will we look for her there ! Per Bacco, what a work is that!
Do not these London lawyers know that when a woman takes the veil she
renounces not only all her worldly goods, but even the very name she was
formerly known by? And twenty years! Who will be able to go back all
those years and find the woman who then was Carlotta Marquetti but is
now, if she be living, and that is extremely doubtful, Sister Therese or
Agnese or Petronilla or --"

"I'm sorry you are so discouraging, Signore," interposed the baronet.
"You would then, perhaps, prefer we should place the business in other
hands --?"

"Davvero No !" was the sharp response, " but it is my duty to tell you,
to make you see for yourself that this is a work that cannot be done
quickly. We have already advertised in all the principal journals of
Italy for a Signora Carlotta Marquetti who was involved in the avalanche
accident to the diligence between Chamounix and Martigny in 1890-- " and
here the lawyer handed his client a copy of the day's " Il Corriere
della Sera."

"But consider, I pray you," he continued, "the changes that have taken
place in conventual life in this country within the past thirty years.
Remember too that newspapers are not permitted inside our nunneries. You
have lived so many years Sir Edward Mainwaring in this beautiful land
and you will, therefore, be more able than the London lawyers to confess
the task of finding this woman is an almost impossible one. Still, we
shall go on to do our best for you, and next week, if I have then no
replies to these advertisements, I shall write to the Cancelleria
requesting permission to interview all the Mothers-Superior, and learn
directly from their lips whether any woman named Carlotta Marquetti has
taken the veil within the past twenty years. Then, again, I must remind
you that a convent is regarded as a place of sanctuary for the penitent,
and no Mother-Superior can be made to give up a repentant sinner to the
civil arm."

"Yes, I see our chances of finding the woman are by no means rosy,"
acknowledged the Englishman despondently. "We don't even know whether
the marriage took place in England or on the continent, nor where the
child was born. But knowing all the parties connected with the case, and
their relation to each other, neither the Earl nor I, nor the English
lawyers have a shadow of doubt that the young man, known for the past
twenty years as Harry Marston is the true heir to the Brudenham title
and estates. Of course we have advertisements now in all the chief
English and French papers offering a reward for the original, or a
verified copy of the registration of the marriage of ' Henry Marston and
Patricia Bourke,' and I devoutly hope we may soon have the information,
for the Earl is not strong enough to bear a lengthened suspense. This is
my address for the next ten days. As you see, I shall be quite close,
and do not fail to wire or send me a special messenger as soon as you
have anything to communicate. I am hoping to be joined by the heir in
the course of the next day or two (he is now at Possagno) but I shall
give him no hint until things are more advanced."

CHAPTER XVI

There is a gloom in deep Love as in deep water; there is a silence in it
which suspends the foot, and the folded arms and the dejected head are
the images it reflects. Landor.

In front of a work of art each must stand as before a prince, waiting
whether or how he will be spoken to; he must not address it himself for
then he would hear nothing but himself. Schopenhauer.

ON the very day that Sir Edward Mainwaring interviewed Sir Howard
Cressingham respecting Harry Marston, that young man was at Bassano,
having tramped thither from Venice, via Treviso and the Villa Maser.
Early next morning he pushed on through Romano and Crespano to Possagno
where he arrived about nine o'clock.

After securing a room at the first inn he came to, he made a hasty
breakfast and an almost equally hasty inspection of the models and casts
of Canova's works at the Palazzo in which the sculptor passed the last
years of his life. He then visited the church and, after wondering why
on earth he had ever come to this out of the way spot, Marston presently
found himself upon the slopes of the beautiful Monte Grappa at the foot
of which the little village nestles.

It was now more than three months since he and the Cressinghams had
parted, for though Sir Howard had manifestly included him in the
arrangements he was making for the party to stay at Murren en route for
England, Hurry, seized by an uncontrollable longing for solitude, found
little difficulty in persuading his patron to leave him to return how
and when he pleased. For the elder man recognised he had no longer a boy
to deal with, but a young man who, besides being an artist and a fluent
speaker of French and Italian, had a will of his own which it would be
unwise, if not dangerous, to thwart unduly.

But the chief reason that led him to assent to Marston's request was
undoubtedly Lady Cressingham's attitude towards the youth.

"All small people go into the wilderness to become great, don't they?"
she asked scornfully when told of his desire for solitude.

"I only wish they did," was her husband's caustic rejoinder, " but I
fear neither solitude nor society effects much with a nature ' cribbed,
cabined or confined.' Harry, though, will be all the better for a few
weeks in which to do as he likes. He's planning a big walking tour, but
has promised me to be back in his rooms the day before our October term
commences."

"His rooms indeed! I really wonder, Howard, what you will say next. The
way you treat, and always have treated the fellow is foolish beyond all
words. A nobody, a boy who just ' grow'd ' like Topsy, but because he
has a knack of handling clay and a chisel you have exalted into a
genius. But what chiefly matters is that you treat him exactly as one of
ourselves, never thinking what mischief may follow. He ought to have
been sent back to the Monthurst people who brought him up, directly
after the fever infection was over."

"You seem to forget that I made myself responsible for his bringing up."

"Well, certainly you needn't have had him out here with Isobel for a
month."

"I couldn't help Simcot falling ill just as we were about to set off,
and you wouldn't have had one of the other pupils in his place."

"Give him a few pounds and let him go his own way for ever. I tell you I
won't have a handsome nameless being either here or at the Abbey while I
have Isobel on my hands."

"Nonsense, nonsense, Victoria, you always have had a grudge against the
boy, and for no reason whatever. He's far too much engrossed with his
Art to give a thought to your sex."

"That shows you know nothing at all about human nature. Who could be
constantly thrown into Isobel's company and remain unconscious of her
charm and beauty?

And what good can it do your protegee to singe himself where he will
never be permitted to warm either hands or heart? I'm not thinking of
him, though, but of her. No one can be sure of a girl in these days, and
if the two are thrown together in Switzerland, or even in England, I
won't answer for the consequences."

"He would like, I believe, to have a year or two in a French or Italian
studio," remarked Sir Howard, with a calmness his wife always found most
annoying, accustomed us she was to the exhibition of it; " and if he
wishes to leave me (he is now close on twenty-one) I shall offer no
objection, fond as I am of him. Indeed -- "

"I'm very glad to hear you say so," interrupted Lady Cressingham, " but
I shall be still better pleased if you will undertake to keep him out of
England, till I have Isobel safely engaged if not married."

"I've no doubt something can be arranged to suit you," returned the
worried husband, " but it will be time enough to decide what when the
holidays are over. For my own part I think Harry will be even more glad
to leave us than you are to get rid of him."

And there Sir Howard spoke truly, for from the very day the party left
England Marston had been made painfully aware of the invidious position
he occupied, and as day followed day this position became intolerable.
How he longed for Simcot; why had he managed to fall ill just then ? No
self-respecting young man, Marston silently and repeatedly declared,
when on one of his solitary expeditions in Florence or its
neighbourhood, would subject himself to the veiled or open scorn and
sarcasm with which Lady Cressingham invariably met any remark he might
venture to offer.

He had not failed to note that this attitude was rarely exhibited when
Sir Howard was present, then her silence was almost as insulting, but if
only Isobel Barton happened to be in hearing her ladyship's spleen
seemed dominated by something akin to vindictiveness.

And Marston decided he could not and would not any longer endure, even
for Sir Howard's sake, this wholesale humbling of himself before Miss
Barton. For he had quickly realised when thrown into her society that
his old of regarding her as a Divinity to whom it would be sacrilege to
offer anything beyond the deepest reverence and admiration, had all at
once vanished (even as a huge scaffolding might suddenly collapse about
some statue) and in its place was a soul and body afire with the most
distressing, most delightful desires, desires which in their intensity
threatened not merely to betray their existence but to make life itself
unendurable if not prosecuted to their natural end.

Yet to speak of them to Isobel or Lady Cressingham would be the veriest
madness.

A fellow with brains and talent, possessing parents, dead or alive, and
even of lowly birth might, so he reasoned, honourably approach the
guardians of the Beloved One and try to make it clear that though he had
no fortune with which to endow her he would make fame, name, ay, even a
title, if that were deemed requisite for her, or die in the attempt.

But to discover his feelings to anyone while his birth was surrounded by
mystery he could only regard as shameful (since to all his enquiries on
the subject the woman who permitted him to call her Aunt Judith had
given him only the significant response "Let well alone ") would but
bring down upon him a tirade of words so fierce and crushing, his
sensitive soul shrank from the very suggestion.

And, since his lips were thus firmly closed by Fate, he must get away
and forget Miss Barton, who would probably soon become engaged to a
being in her own rank of life, whose birth and ancestry the peerage
books would have no difficulty in tracing back at least to the period of
the second Charles Stuart.

Bitterly he laughed as he reasoned that Fate had been most vindictive in
giving him the education and manners befitting the very society Lady
Cressingham seemed determined to hound him from.

Well, thank God, he had his Art. She must now be more to him than she
had ever been. To her he would turn with fresh ardour, for she would
have to fill the place of parents, lover, wife and home. To her he would
tell his inmost thoughts and she, she would speak to him as in the
former days before he had felt Isobel's enchanting power, of things that
only he and she could bring to glorious birth, masterpieces which the
world of Art would acclaim with delight.

So Marston left Florence, but before he reached Possagno three months
later his very Art had deserted him, or rather he had discovered that
she was no longer the young, radiant, inspiring creature he had
cherished since boyhood days, but a worn-out, decrepit body, utterly
incapable of invoking the old enthusiasms.

On leaving the Cressinghams he had gone to Carrara and thence to Massa
where he picked up a good deal of information invaluable to a would-be
purchaser of marble (Sir Howard had insisted on his acceptance of
letters of credit for 50 pounds due to him, so he said, for work on the
Montreal Font. But Marston did not buy any marble, and the sight of
heads, busts, torsos, statues, birds, fountains and what not which he
saw either finished or in process of evolution at the various ateliers
gave him a kind of mental nausea, there seemed to be no originality
either in work or work-manship.

Was it impossible, he asked himself, for a sculptor in these days to be
anything more than a copyist content to turn out Psyches, Venuses,
Madonne, figures pagan and Christian, classic and modern, nude and
draped, without a touch of originality about them? The fact that the
stereotype can never be an original did not disturb his hastily formed
judgment, while the knowledge that these productions found a ready sale
and, by their individual attractiveness and cheapness might even foster
a love of art in lowly homes made no appeal to the disgusted young
sculptor.

From Massa, spite of the summer heat, he went to Rome, and for a time
made a determined effort to study and differentiate the various
specimens of antique sculpture to be found there in such unique
profusion and preservation. But he was not long in discovering the
Aphrodite after Praxitles, and the Meleager after Scopas (with this
unfortunate youth he found himself in profound sympathy) and then his
comparison of the outstanding, or more subtle indications of the archaic
and classic sculptors was relinquished. With Lucian's description of the
Aphrodite before him he would daily go over each feature, delightedly
attesting its resemblance to the girl he could not banish from his
thoughts.

"' Beautiful and full of charm,' that was Isobel !"

"'Eyes dewy, yet shining with bright sweetness, lofty in bearing with a
soft smile just parting the lips.' Yes, that was Isobel !"

How often he had seen her thus when he himself had been unperceived.

"And such was the transfiguring power of his art," he continued, quoting
from his book of extracts, " that the rigid, stubborn stone was changed
to beauty in every limb. Hair, brow, beautiful."

Yet Aphrodite herself was not more lovely than Isobel. What an
enchanting name! And the love-sick youth would betake himself to the
lonely Campagna, or the Parc Borghese and beneath the shade of its
umbrella pines would repeat the word "Isobel " in every language, and
with every inflection it was capable of bearing, pronouncing one and all
of an enchanting sweetness.

" My lady seems of ivory, Forehead straight nose and cheeks that be
Hollowed a little mournfully. Beata mea Domina !" were lines often upon
his lips.

"Ah, how regally she moved! Yet how gracious her bearing! Upon how
lovely a pillar her head was poised. How like to ivory was the colour of
her face, and the whole of her," and Harry moved uneasily at the
sacrilegious thought. "Why, she must be that rare and wondrous
achievement, a perfect statue informed with life."

But what folly was this--this was not the way to forget. And presently
Marston wrenched himself from the attractive Aphrodite and the unhappy
Meleager and set out for Athens, the Purple City--the cradle of his Art.
He would stand with Athena on the Acropolis, would re-people the temples
and the streets with their ancient gods and goddesses and there, surely
there, he would forget.

But the disgust he had felt for his art at Carrara deepened to despair
in Athens. Everything had been done and not only done, but with
modelling so perfect, finish and play of surface so exquisite that
Marston felt he would never cure to touch either clay or chisel again.

Who in this age could make a lovelier mouth than that of the Antinous
from Patras in the National Museum, or model a second "Wingless Victory
" binding her sandal like that to be seen in the Acropolis collection?
The texture of that almost transparent robe, now clinging, now floating
away in rich masses, now hiding, now revealing--why, it was a piece of
work almost divine in its nearly unimaginable skill and delicacy.

Sculpture had been born, had come to the fulness of a
never-to-be-repeated maturity and had fallen into its dotage ere the
Christian era had run a hundred years of its course.

And what was even more lamentable to Marston's reasoning was that with
the decadence of manual skill, the ability to conceive noble,
heart-stirring and uplifting ideals had been irrecoverably lost, and no
amount of searching, he declared, would ever bring it back.

In this tumult of mind, the forlornness of his position towards art, and
life, and love weighing like an incubus upon him, he left Athens, and
this evening at the end of September, as he made the easy ascent of
Monte Grappa, the weight had not lifted; indeed the long mental struggle
was re-acting adversely upon his physical condition.

What, he asked himself, recurring again to the well-worn theme, were
Canova, Bistolfi, Rodin, Sending, and the other moderns but copyists,
their sole claim to superiorly consisting in their ability to symbolise,
to re-present more or less effectively something already in existence?

As for his own work, he regarded it with unmitigated contempt. The
prize-font in which he had taken such pride, albeit the noble pride of a
designer, could that lay claim to originality?

" Decidedly not," was the unhesitating reply, for certainly at sometime
or other, in some cloistered garden sunflowers had reared thick stems,
black buds and full-rayed blooks beside the iron-trellis-work which
arched the well, the waters of which preserved them in life.

As for the figures of the Saviour and the child, he would have destroyed
them had they been within his reach.

Oh, to be at the beginning of things! To be making the first archway,
fashioning the first frieze, carving the first face ever cut in marble !
For all that Marston had hitherto conceived or accomplished appeared now
only worthy of scorn, if not derision.

His mood indeed this lovely evening was akin to that of Ricasoli on the
conclusion of the shameful peace. "After Villa Franca," said the Italian
statesman, "I spat upon my life."

Presently, throwing himself upon the short grass at which a few sheep
were nibbling, Marston drew from his pocket a notebook bearing on its
cover the words, "Ideas for my chisel," and containing passages in
shorthand from the Bible, Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, Longfellow,
Tennyson, Browning, and other writers. There were metaphors of Death,
Beauty, Life, Love, Hate, and all the passions, the objective always in
excess of the subjective. But these Harry passed over without a second
glance, riveting his gaze upon the last of the written pages which
evidently bore a recent addition.

Almost unwittingly he rose to his feet and as if to give each word its
fullest expression in this beautiful solitude, he declaimed aloud the
excerpt he had copied from Dion Chrysostom's graphic description of the
Zeus of Phidias. "An image gentle and august, in perfect form, he who is
the giver of life and breath and every good gift, the common Father, and
Saviour, and Guardian of mankind, so far as it was possible for a mortal
to conceive and embody a nature infinite and divine. For look you if you
do not find the image of the God in harmony with every name by which he
is called. For Zeus alone is the Father of gods, and the one king, and
the defender of the state, and the friend and the companion yes, and the
easy-to-be-entreated and the hospitable, and the faithful and he has a
thousand titles more. He who would show forth all this without words was
surely a finished artist, for he willed that the might of the form and
the majesty should make clear the king and his government, and the
mildness and gentleness the father and his care; and his dignity and
austerity the guardian of the City and the lawgiver; the kinship of gods
and Men were, I think, to be expressed as it were by the oneness of the
form, and all his attributes of love to man, his loving kindness, and
that he is easy to be entreated, the friend of strangers, the refuge of
suppliants and the like."

As the last words left his lips the reader closed the book with a snap,
despair and envy filling his soul.

What a conception, what a realisation! Yes, indeed, he that would show
forth all that must be, and was the very prince of sculptors. Oh, that
the Phidian Zeus had been saved to posterity! Yet nothing now remained
but the black pavement on which it had been placed. The size, the
magnificence of it !

The young artist went over every detail until he stood in thought beside
the throne upon which the image (42 feet high) was seated. He noted the
olive garland upon the noble brow, the crowned figure of Victory in the
right hand, the golden sceptre " wrought with divers metals " in the
left, the robe of gold embossed with creatures " and lily like flowers."

The climber had now arrived at a small natural terrace, and
instinctively checked his steps, transfixed by the beauty of the scene
around him.

Below stretched the broad plain of the Brenta, but lately escaped from
its rocky ravine in the Tyrolese Alps. Amidst a setting of waving
silver, for olive plantations are the chief feature of the plain, stood
the picturesque town of Bassano surrounded by lofty, ivy-clad walls.
There, too, rose the tower of Eccelino the Tyrant. Westwards, far
westwards, stretched the long range of Monte Baldo, while in the north
the snowy heights of the Tyrol stood in proud beauty crimsoning beneath
the lingering gaze of the setting sun.

"And once," said the onlooker, with bitterness, " you talked glibly of '
improving upon Nature ' ! " So ruthless is the newborn soul to his
brother of the earlier birth!

Anger burned in the young man's breast as his eyes once again swept with
comprehensive glance the scene before him.

Why he asked, had the Creator reserved to Himself this greatest of all
gifts, the power of conceiving something hitherto non-existent, and
bringing that conception to glorious birth? Why had man been endowed
with the desire, the will to originate while the power to do so was
denied him?

What were man's best productions with chisel and hammer in comparison
with God's works. His majestic monuments, their perfect curves, their
splendid angles, their billowy beauty?

Those gigantic, almost preposterous figures in the New Sacristy at
Florence were they not proof positive that even Michael Angelo had
realised and rebelled against his limitations?

Yes, Il Terribile must have had just such longings as he had to kick
himself free from all shackles, to create instead of to copy.

Yet all to no purpose confessed the young thinker, his head upon his
breast, gloom gathering over his soul, as night entered into possession
of the landscape. Why should he trouble himself to make any more marble
men and women--there were plenty of people in the world who could do that
better than he.

And he had so loved his Art!

But now everything was changed, even the magic mantle of Imagination
which from childhood's days he had delighted to wrap about him had
slipped its clasps in the bracing wind of experience and lay at his feet
discredited, a thing of nought. Beneath its folds it had been an easy
matter to hide away the ache of his heart when he knew himself to be not
only an orphan but of parentage unknown and probably undesirable. And
with it about his shoulders what lovely visions he had seen, visions he
had intended some day to immortalise in stone.

But now the world was all awry, and he just a beggar, who, having
dreamed he is clasping a valuable jewel which shall render him immune
from care during a long life, awakes to find no jewel, but a thorn
embedded in his palm.

And Harry felt and knew himself to be haggard, and undone.

Standing with unclothed soul on the edge of the infinite, with
outstretched hands reaching forth for that which, like the world in its
genesis, is without form and void, nebulous but unutterably desirable,
and, again, like the world in its genesis informed with the divine, he
realised to the full his own impotence--his lamentable limitations.

Utterly oblivious of the flight of time, or that the little terrace
which he continued to pace with almost mechanical regularity had long
since been swallowed up by the devouring darkness, thankful only to be
alone in this his hour of supreme abasement, Marston at length raised
his head and perceived the golden sickle of the young moon hanging in
musical fashion above the snow-topped, blue-domed mountains.

But this fresh manifestation of the opulent beauty of nature served only
to accentuate his mental depression. In tones of pathetic upbraiding he
exclaimed, "The day is Thine, and the night also, why hast Thou left us
nothing to make? Conception, Faith, Imagination, call it what you will,
is man's key to the vast treasures of the unknown, the most desirable.
But if we are not permitted to turn it in the lock, why put it into our
hands?"

As the last words left his lips a star fell, glancing swiftly across the
dark vault to vanish immediately in the vast abyss of space. The
onlooker stood motionless.

Was this an answer to his question, just a further exhibition of power
from the Omnipotent One Whose habitation is eternity? Jupiter hurled
thunderbolts, he recalled, on those who dared to question the wisdom of
his acts. Then, in a flash of memory, Marston saw the reliefs of the
metopes to be found in greater or less numbers in every National Museum,
reliefs depicting the immemorial struggle between gods and giants, man
(personified by Heracles) and Nature's forces, the fixed and eternal, in
perpetual warfare with the dying, ever changing.

His quarrel with Circumstance, Fate, the things that be, was, after all,
but a variant of a subject as old as the creation of primeval man, he by
no means the first rebel, his case one of thousands.

Turning with a harsh laugh to resume his pacings, but miscalculating his
position, Marston became aware, too late for recovery, that he had
stepped on to thin air, and, like the star he had so lately watched, was
himself falling through space.

Where he fell there he lay unconscious, while Nature, with serene
indifference performed her nightly routine. One by one, or in groups,
the stars disappeared, and it was not until the Great Sculptor had
removed with His own hands the soft coverings from His masterpiece, the
orb of day, that Harry was found and carried by strong arms to the inn
which yesterday he had entered in apparent health and vigour.

CHAPTER XVII

Life is definite and resident, and spiritual life is not a visit from a
force, but a resident tenant in the soul. H. Drummond. "I SHALL never be
able to forgive myself for being so stupid this morning. I lost my nerve
utterly." So said Mrs Pakenham to the Rev. Reginald Brinsfield, the only
other occupant of the small wooden-balcony affixed to the modest
drawing-room of the Hotel Bel Oiseau at Finshauts, on one of the closing
days of the month of August.

The simple dinner over, all the other guests who had not made mountain
excursions were either on the cool, spacious verandah, or had gone
downwards through the village, past the little churchyard with its
hideous wreaths of black bugles and loud-coloured beads, past, too, the
trickling silver threads (all that remained of the mountain streams),
past the inn which overhung the valley opposite the Tete Noire, and up
and on to the summit of the road cut through the pine forest, from
whence the broad shoulder of Mount Blanc was visible--its white glory
shimmering in the radiance of a moon at the full.

The same radiance illumined the Glacier de Trient, facing the couple
from Monthurst, while now and again the lights of the electric trains
coming up from Martigny or Chastelard reminded them of things mundane.

But the widow's thoughts were entirely of her morning's experiences, and
Brinsfield had called expressly to leam how she was feeling after them.

When she paid her farewell call at the vicarage, at the end of June,
Beatrice, who was leaving for Achill two weeks later had expressed
sincere regret that she could not accompany her husband to Finshauts,
she had so greatly enjoyed the holiday they spent there two years
before.

"I wonder whether that is the place Mrs Bloor is so anxious to visit. We
go direct to Jongny, above Vevey, but how long we stay there depends on
how we find things," Mrs Pakenham had replied.

"Unless your friend is fond of walking and climbing, she will not care
for Finshauts, and as it is some 200 feet higher, I believe, than
Jongny, it will, of course, be cooler. Indeed, it can be quite winterly
sometimes, and no one should venture to stay there without warm wraps or
beyond mid-September. The life, too, is extremely simple; no five-course
evening meals, at least not at the Mont Fleuri, the hotel we stayed at.
We were very comfortable, though, and I know that people who stayed at
Le Bel Oiseau nearly opposite had nothing to complain of," concluded
Beatrice.

That conversation had decided Mrs Pakenham's holiday programme, and
without consulting Mrs Bloor, who had never heard of Finshauts, was no
climber, and a very poor walker, she made arrangements for the two of
them to leave Jongny the last day of July. The heat would be unendurable
in August, she affirmed, and so a fortnight before Mr Brinsfield reached
the Mont Fleuri, the two ladies were settled at Le Bel Oiseau Hotel, one
of them professing herself charmed with the life and scenery.

That one was certainly not Mrs Bloor. She, indeed, was thoroughly
mystified by her friend's action in exchanging sunny Jongny with its
cherry-tree bordered roads, its gardens filled with ripe currants, red,
black, and white, " so English," and the air there, the lovely Dents du
Midi, the shimmering waters of Lac Leman, the easy access to Clarens,
Montreux, and Castle Chillon". To exchange all these delights merely to
be hemmed round by mountains, and so effectually hemmed that one had no
chance of seeing either the sun rise or set, and so had to be satisfied
with its colourings as reflected or refracted on the snowy heights
around and above them.

True, the sun's rays appeared in strength for a few hours almost every
day, but, oh, how cold the mornings and evenings! "If you wanted to go
higher, Barbara, why didn't you try Mont Pelerin, above Jongny?" she
pleaded the week after their arrival. Fortunately the weather improved
during their second week and light dawned on the mystery of this
self-denying ordinance, when the toady discovered the Sunday following
that the chaplain officiating at the tiny English church was none other
than the Vicar of Monthurst, and that both he and her patroness were
delighted to recognise each other.

She saw also, for she had not been twice widowed without acquiring a
wide knowledge of man-nature, that the vicar's surprise on seeing his
parishioner was as genuine as his welcoming words: "Why, this is good,
Mrs Pakenham! I had no idea you were staying here."

"We only arrived twelve days ago, and how long we stay depends entirely
on Mrs Bloor, my friend." Here the speaker presented that lady. "She is
by no means in love with the place, and already hankers, I believe, for
Jongny."

"I must shew you some of the lions. I think I know them all within a
radius of twenty to thirty miles," said Brinsfield. "My wife and I had a
splendid holiday here two years ago, and if Mallam had not ordered our
boy to Adiill, she would have been with me now."

"Yes, she spoke so glowingly of the place when I called to bid her
good-bye that I felt I must come and see what it was like," rejoined Mrs
Pakenham.

"Well, I hope you will not hurry away until you have seen all there is
to be seen. May I call after supper tonight and arrange some outing for
to-morrow?"

As it happened the ladies at the time were the only English people in
Finshauts other than honeymoon couples and climbers, here to-day and
gone to-morrow, so naturally, almost as a matter of course, the vicar
accompanied them and often arranged the daily walking or driving
excursions. No remonstrance was offered in public by Mrs Bloor, though
it frequently happened, as Mrs Pakenham had foreseen, that that lady
found herself too tired to complete the long walk or high climb. Then,
what more natural than that the other two, bent on finding yellow
violets or edelweiss, or special points of view, should go forward
together and return later to pick up the lady?

To Brinsfield, whose soul was absorbed in the work and its development
of the R.R.U.S., these opportunities for talking over his plans for the
coming winter with one so evidently genuinely interested in them were as
water in the desert to a thirsty man. In the few days he and Beatrice
had spent together when he took her and the children to Achill, he had
scrupulously refrained from naming the Society or Crapezzo's pamphlet.
To be able to speak unreservedly on both topics and always to find
sympathy, was for him a new and delightful experience, one indeed which
he felt he might rightly indulge to the utmost.

Did not Mrs Pakenham, on their very first excursion, shew her devotion
by enquiring if the burnt pamphlets had been replaced, and what, after
all, had been the net result of the Italian doctor's mischievous speech
about which even people in Jongny had talked?

It became indeed impossible for him not to contrast the eagerness with
which Barbara Pakenham seized upon and frequently expanded every
proposition brought forward for the extension of the R.R.U.S with the
apathy, or rather the antipathy Beatrice manifested towards it.

The widow would have been delighted could a meeting of spiritualists or
spiritists have been arranged, but Finshauts, while an ideal spot for
earthly climbing, offered few attractions for the cultivation of
intercourse with the spirits of the departed. No medium visited it
during her stay, and only the intensity of her desire to make herself a
part of Brinsfield's life had prevented her leaving the chilly place for
lower and brighter latitudes a week after his arrival. So the greater
part of August passed in a companionship, which, wholly free from any
intimate action on either side was skilfully directed by the woman
towards acquainting herself with the man's weaknesses and encouraging
the slightest attempts to confide in her.

And it was to her behaviour on the return from what was certainly a very
stiff climb, that the widow referred in self-reproachful terms on this
almost the last evening of their stay. They had all three breakfasted at
6.45 A.M and, at 7 Reginald Brinsfleld arrived at the Bel Oiseau to
possess himself of the ladies' lunch basket, and duly inquire whether
they had their climbing-sticks, and were shod in nailed boots.

The morning was glorious, the sun already powerful, the air delicious,
crisp, and stimulating. Workmen were busy putting up new buildings in
the village, among them a fine hotel, with a built-out smoking-room, the
flat roof of which was designed as a tennis-court!

Here and there the hewers of rocks were busy cutting and shaping stone
for special purposes, themselves and their implements and draught horses
seriously lessening the all too narrow pathway.

At length the road lay between the pines. Such shadows, such colourings,
such blending of hues, especially when now and again one came upon a
trunk cloven by the hand of man, or ruthlessly torn asunder by the grip
of the storm-fiend. The hearts of those pines! They were ruddy as living
fire, and the trend of the pith, and the folds of it, took on a
wonderful likeness to naming brands, while the outer bark from which all
heat and life had been long withdrawn was ashen grey.

The butterflies, Mrs Pakenham remarked, were not now as numerous, and as
fearless as when she and Mrs Bloor had arrived. Still, they were lovely
in spite, or because, of the varied geometric arrangement of their vivid
colouring.

All at once, at a bend in the road, Mount Blanc appeared, serenely
regarding her persistent wooer, the sun, who, in spite of his ardour,
seemed incapable of producing recognition from that towering head,
though no doubt her limbs trembled somewhat beneath the intensity of his
gaze.

Presently the road forked, and the trio, away from the pines, were
almost blinded by the sun-glare. Taking the higher path they soon
reached the comfortable, unpretentious Hotel of Gietrox, where Mrs Bloor
said she really must have a rest. "Well, we'll rest too, for half an
hour, shall we?" was Barbara's remark, addressed to Mr. Brinsfield.

"Ten minutes, not more," was his rejoinder, " the sun will be growing
more powerful every moment. Besides, when we have gone through Gietrox
we shall be under the pines again."

When the ten minutes had expired the widow insisted that Mrs Bloor
should go on, and the three quickly passed the rough wooden huts
composing the village, a village with no street but just a sinuous
narrow path which led on to a meadow. A month ago that had been a glory
of deep-hued flowers, blue, purple and peach-coloured.

Presently, as Reginald Brinsfield had foretold, they were beneath the
pines again, and for a while upon a grassy level. But gradually the path
reared itself, and then Mrs Bloor declared in unmistakeable tones that
she would go no farther. All Barbara's persuasions were futile, and when
the object of them said she would return to the Hotel at Gietrox, and
await their coming, the vicar produced the lunch-basket, which she gave
him again after taking her packet therefrom.

So they left her and presently they and the path itself vanished. Indeed
the climbers found themselves advancing upon something very like the
side of a gigantic house from the roof of which all the tiles had fallen
and lay heaped about the walls. This was Barbara Pakenham's first
experience of a moraine, and though she had to pause again and again to
recover her spent breath she resolutely refused to turn back. She would
be no spoil-sport, she said. With her pointed, iron-tipped walking
stick, and the constant guidance and support of the Vicar's hand, the
moraine was at length surmounted, and the climbers upon velvety
grass-covered rocks which made walking almost dangerous. But after
another twenty minutes it was possible to turn round, and then they were
amply repaid, not by the sight of the Cascade, but by the glorious view
of Mount Blanc and the glittering snowy chain of the Aiguilles Vertes.

Here and there solitary pines raised themselves, and beneath one, and
upon the now naked rocks, the couple sat down face to face with the
giants, and lunch was discussed.

Then the vicar took from his pocket-book a report sent by wireless of a
wonderful spirit seance held in New York, where the manifestations of
unseen presences had been of a most remarkable nature, and due, it was
said, entirely to the simpatica, and perhaps the second-sight of the
marvellous new medium, Mdme. Lanlan. She had conversed with, among
others, Abraham Lincoln, Bismarck, and Queen Victoria!

"How I should love to be a medium!" exclaimed Barbara, with a sigh, her
eyes fixed upon the snowy heights opposite. "Why shouldn't you try?" was
the encouraging and hoped-for response of her companion. "I certainly
think you would be a success. You have a genuine love for the work," he
continued, " and that is really the key, and I believe the only key,
that will open to us the gates of the unseen. We have a mere glimpse
now."

And the man ceased speaking, his mind evidently entranced by the picture
imagination was unfolding to his expectant eyes. Time, space, Death
itself, should be bridged, and the living, trained, educated to
recognise the unseen presences, should be the recipients of the boon of
knowledge and experience gained by their loved dead, while life would
from thenceforth be shorn of the anguish born of its mystery and
inequalities.

Quite another vision occupied the mind of Barbara; she was indeed
compelled to exercise severe control over her features lest they should
disclose the mirth which the self-projected scene induced. Certainly she
would look very well extended upon a low divan, a loosely hanging
garment of Liberty silk about a body clothed beneath it in white samite.
Wasn't that the proper thing for mediums to wear? Or, if not, why
shouldn't she introduce a new fashion into the circles? She would be at
no loss whatever to reply to any questions that were put to her, even if
they were of persons and things she had never before heard. However
stupid her answer somebody would be sure to discover it to hold an
occult meaning. Yes, she would look very well with her arms bared and
her beautiful snake bracelet climbing as it were round and round one of
them. She must work the man at her side to arrange a small seance at the
Manor House soon after his return in October. And she at once started
her campaign by saying: "Do you think it will be possible to form a
circle at Monthurst this winter?"

"I hope so, but, putting aside the question of the expense if we are to
have a good medium, it will be necessary to exercise great caution for
some weeks to come."

"You mean?"

"I mean that while my Bishop is all right, and I believe is as keen at
heart as I am in this business, yet, as the greater number of our
Bishops are undoubtedly strongly opposed to these researches, we must
appear, at any rate, for a time, to go slow."

"But nearly all the Bishops now," objected the widow, " approve of
praying for and even to the dead."

"Oh, we are all inconsistent at times, and I'll own I greatly dislike
being compelled to keep my cards, to a great extent, up my sleeve, but
in a good cause one must be prepared to suffer patiently, mentally, and
even spiritually. Besides we have such wonderful encouragements to go
forward. I shan't be satisfied till I've seen this Mdme. Lanlan. I
wonder whether Hunstable is thinking of going over for her big seance
the end of September," and the man's eyes took on a dreamy expression
again. "Well, if you go you might takes notes for me--you know--I shan't
ask a penny if you think well to engage me as medium for the Monthurst
Circle."

"You are very good, Mrs Pakenham, and you've made what I feared would
prove a very dull holiday a really delightful one. If only we could have
found a few people here as keenly interested as we are we should have
been able to increase our knowledge and experience. The great thing, I
am convinced, is to have Circles everywhere."

"Where would the Monthurst Circle meet? At the Vicarage?"

The man's face fell, as the questioner knew it would, at this query.

"I can't say yet," was his reply in evasive tones, " you see the Bishop
might not approve, and my wife -- "

But here Mrs Pakenham interposed to save him the annoyance of disclosing
Beatrice's lack of sympathy.

"Oh, the Manor House is always at your service, you have only to give me
a few hours' notice. But isn't it time we were getting back?" she asked,
while she mechanically collected the fragments of the lunch and hurled
them into space.

The Vicar consulted his watch.

"It's later than I thought. I fear we mustn't attempt to go on to the
Cascade,"

"Oh, well," laughed the woman, " we shall have ' to pretend ' as the
children say, for it will never do to tell Mrs Bloor we were too busy
talking to accomplish what we set out to do. Anyway, we've heard the
Cascade."

And it was when descending the moraine that the widow lost her nerve,
and also her footing; fortunately Brinsfield had her hand, and was a
step or so in advance, the way without doubt being very perilous.

"It is the giddiness common to some people at great heights, and we must
be 6,000 feet above sea-level," said the Vicar when, after a horrible
moment in which the ground seemed to be flung from beneath his feet, he
succeeded in forcing Mrs Pakenham backwards, and found to his intense
relief she was sitting down and had not fainted.

"I'm so ashamed of myself," she whispered, while she clung desperately
to her companion's hand.

"It will be getting less steep every step we take; but there is no need
to hurry, it is not more than half - past three."

"And Mrs Bloor was to have tea ready by four," murmured the widow. "Do
you think I should manage better if I were to try going down backwards,"
and she shivered slightly with closed eyes. "No, no, you couldn't see
where you were going and then -- "

"0h, I wouldn't have come if I had thought I should have this vertigo."

"If you would but trust yourself," began Brinsfield, and he paused.
Certainly his companion was very pale, and if they waited for hours she
would not be less liable to giddiness.

"Oh, don't leave me," she implored. "I dare not stay here while you go
for help!" and for one moment she opened her eyes and threw a startled
glance around.

"No, no, I never thought of leaving you," the Vicar hastened to assure
her. "I thought, if you will promise to keep your eyes fast shut, I
might carry you just to the foot of the moraine, and you would find
yourself all right there."

" Dear fellow," she murmured, as if unconscious of words. "I'll promise
not to open my eyes till you tell me, but don't you think I shall be too
heavy?"

"I think it is the only thing to be done," rejoined Brinsfield grimly,
and he wondered whether he too were about to have a fit of giddiness,
his heart seemed to be thumping so loudly. "Now stand up for one moment.
Don't open your eyes. There, your arm so, and if you feel inclined to
move at all be sure to lean backwards and not forwards."

The speaker had already thrown Mrs Pakenham's climbing stick below, and
now he stooped and placed her in a sitting-posture on his left arm. Thus
heavily handicapped he at length brought her to the foot of the moraine.
And mercifully, so thought Brinsfield, who felt convinced he could not
have carried his burden another step, for, in addition to the strain on
his physical strength, the woman seemed in some subtle manner to be
draining away all his moral stamina. When he stopped she said, "May I
open my eyes?" and in answer to his curt "Yes," she looked at him, a
bewitching smile on her lips, and slipping from his arm she said, "Was I
good?"

He made no reply but went aside to pick up the abandoned stick, which on
receiving again its owner observed:

"Guess now what I was thinking of on the way down?"

"I'm a bad guesser," replied Brinsfield, " but no doubt you expected
every minute I should drop you."

"Not a bit of it," returned the widow gaily. "No," and the speaker's
lips were in dangerous proximity to her companion's cheek, as she
whispered, "No, I vowed another £50 to the R.R.U.S if we got down
safely."

"Generous woman," murmured the delighted cleric, " your reward far
exceeds my deserts."

And then, as they rested for a quarter of an hour, the talk was of the
Circle to be founded at Monthurst before Christmas. It was an easy
matter to get over the rest of the way, and after taking tea with Mrs
Bloor at Gietrox, all three returned to Finshauts in good time for
dinner.

A letter from Beatrice awaited Brinsfield on his return to the Mont
Fleuri. Was she going to help at last? " Dearest," it commenced.
Perhaps, after all, she had decided to help. But the letter contained no
reference to the R.U.U.S., and though not a long one was of a deeply
affectionate nature. There were little amusing and pathetic incidents
and speeches connected with the children, and a post-card-photo of them
and herself by a travelling artist. The " pigeon pair," it seemed, were
by no means anxious to leave the small Irish farmhouse, the grand sea
and the mighty cliffs, but they did long to see "Daddy." Rex had some
wonderful shells for him, and Eva some lovely pink seaweed. Beatrice
felt sure the boy was already stronger for the change and that the
remaining six weeks of the holiday would exorcise the cardiac trouble.
She said that in that out of the way spot she knew and heard little or
nothing of what was going on either in England or Europe. The little
information she got came through an occasional sight of an old copy of
the "Irish Times " or was brought by the clergyman on his infrequent
visits, the rectory being, as Naldo knew, about a day's journey from the
farm.

"I had a short letter from Grandpa this morning; he seems to be better
again. He wanted to know when you would be back and hoped I would go
over to the Castle as soon as possible after we reached Monthurst. He
tells me ' Sir Edward ' (as I shall always call him) is going to Italy
in a few days but doesn't say whether he goes thence to Sydney. All
being well, I propose to leave for home on the 21st prox., and shall
have all ready for you on your return on the 25th. If the locum tenens
and his family are certain to be out of the Vicarage on the 19th, I
could return on the 20th. I haven't yet received Dottor Crapezzo's
pamphlet, nor the review by Ambericus Helena promised me. Bennett hasn't
sent on anything but letters addressed to me, two of which I enclose as
they may interest you.

"Of course I wish I were with you, dear heart, I do so love the
mountains as you know. How delightful to be starting to-morrow at dawn
with you for the Glacier de Trient ! I'm glad that you have Mrs Pakenham
and her friend, though they will soon be finding it too cold I expect.
My kind remembrances to Mrs P."

Then as he took from the envelope the letters his wife had enclosed, a
page of notepaper covered with her hand-writing fell out upon the table.
"I cannot wait, dear Naldo, till October," he read, " but must tell you
at once that after much thought and still more regret I cannot overcome
my repugnance and so shall be unable to help you this winter with your
psychic work. I am trying to school myself to the fact, the disagreeable
fact, that others, outsiders, must take the place beside you I should so
gladly fill could I see things from your point of view. Although I feel
very strongly that this work in addition to your own parochial duties
must in time seriously injure your health, I fully recognise your right
to follow what you have so often told me you regard as divine leadings.
You will, you must, know the heartache which accompanies this decision
and know too, that spite of it I am ever your devoted wife, Bea."

Many solitary hours had Beatrice spent on Slievemore after Naldo's
departure for Finshauts doing her utmost to bring an unbiassed judgment
to bear upon the arguments and statements of accredited writers on
Spiritualism. But though she could not prove them false she nevertheless
could not accept them as desirable nor force her mind to search into the
ways of Death. The memory of even Hetty Bishop's attitude last June
filled her with repugnance. How could the girl in her youth and beauty
have desired to die? When Life was returned to her she had chosen or
would have, had it been in her power, Death? Amazing mystery! Unless one
were old or incapacitated how could one prefer the languish, the pain,
the dark future, to the joy, the brightness, the sweetness of life?

So Beatrice penned her decision scarcely realizing as she did so that
presently it would claim even a heavier toll from both body and mind
than she had foreseen.

Letting the paper fall to the ground, Brinsfleld took up the photo, the
mother and the two children in the farmhouse garden. "No!" he exclaimed
emphatically, "I can't, I daren't accept this decision as final. I love
you too well, my darling!"

He was glad the widows were leaving Finshauts next day, when all his
plans were upset by a wire from Lord Hunstable received after he had
entrained the ladies for Jongny. "I leave for New York on the l6th," it
ran, " join me at Havre letter follows."

And in the delightful prospect of attending Mdme Lanlan's seance
Brinsfield forgot everything but the necessity of securing the services
of his locum tenens at Monthurst for another three weeks.

CHAPTER XVIII

A dialogue between two infants in the womb concerning the state of this
world, might handsomely illustrate our ignorance of the next whereof,
methinks, we yet discourse in Plato's den and are but embryo
philosophers. Sir Thomas Browne. FORTUNATELY the terrace from which
Marston fell had its grassy duplicate a few feet below and no bones were
broken. But the shock and exposure to the chills of the early autumn
night, combined with overstrained physical and mental powers, brought on
an attack of dysentery, attended with high fever, and for several days
he was light-headed.

He had challenged the Almighty, and the Almighty had not only flung him
into space, but had sent two serpents (which, for a similar attitude
towards Deity, had attacked and killed Laocoon) to crush his life out.
Every moment he expected to feel their venomous bite, every moment he
knew his bones must crack under the terrible pressure, but after an
interminable agony of waiting, the loathsome, coiling creatures
gradually relaxed their hold, and slunk away a glutinous mass of
horrible, fleshy undulations.

Yet scarcely had they vanished from sight than the wretched invalid
became aware he had escaped their fangs only to fall into the jaws of
hell itself--Brendan's hell. But, unlike Brendan, who merely looked
through the gate, Harry was inside with " the black demons, in the
rough, hot prison full of stench, full of flames, full of filth, full of
the poisonous camps of the demons, full of wailing and screaming, and
hurt and sad cries, and great lamentations, and moaning and hand-smiting
of the gloomy, sinful folks."

Yes, he was indeed in that very place of torment, the description of
which he had copied out some months ago from "The Book of Lismore." He
had then been struck by its powerful realism, he was now experiencing
its horrors.

"God, deliver me, deliver me!" he cried in piteous, agonised entreaty.
Better the bite of the serpent, and unconsciousness for ever than
endless torment in this terrible place with its " streams of the rows of
eternal fire, in black, dark swamps, in fonts of heavy flame, in
abundance of woe, and death, and torments, and fetters, and feeble,
wearying combats, with the awful shouting of the poisonous demons, in a
night ever foul, ever long, ever stifling, deadly, destructive."

" God help me to get to the gate, the gate, the gate!" he shouted, "
away, away from these ' stinking fires, streams of poison, cats
scratching, hounds rending, dogs buying, demons yelling, stinking lakes,
dark swamps, dark pits.' "

Now he was shivering under " winds bitter, wintry, snow frozen, ever
dropping, flakes red, fiery, faces base, darkened, demons swift, greedy,
fiery-haired, of fire, without rest, without stay, hosts of demons
dragging the sinners into --" But Harry could bear no more, and with a
yell of exceeding great fright, he leapt from his bed to elude the
clutches of two oncoming devils.

Thank God, he was saved! And wonder of wonders, saved by the Almighty
Himself--the Being Whose wisdom he had so wickedly arraigned, had
graciously interfered in his behalf; had actually flown to his succour
as Michael Angelo had portrayed Him on the ceiling of the Sistine
chapel, and with extended hand had touched his finger-tips. Yes, as He
had given Adam life by contact with himself, so now Harry felt new life
coursing through his veins, and realised that he was saved and forgiven.

Reclining upon billowy clouds, his hand now clasping that of his
saviour, he felt no fear as he listened to the Almighty's voice. How
tenderly He talked to him !

"So you blame me, my son, for leaving you nothing to make ! Who made
that Hell from which I have but just now delivered you? How many
Hereafters has not man fashioned for himself and his kind? Has he not
from age to age decreed the future that awaits him when Death shall lay
its icy finger on his pulse and still his heart? Who made the Elysian
Fields of the Ancients, the sensuous, sensual Gardens of Mahomet, The
Happy Hunting Grounds of the Red Indian, the Paradise of the Christian?

"Have I ever interfered with the deities he has appointed and set up,
brutish in the old, far away days, superman and woman in the heydey of
Athenian Art, and all more or less demanding sacrifices of blood from
their worshippers? One by one man has brought these varied, and often
lovely and beneficent conceptions to a magnificent maturity only to find
them, howsoever beautiful or helpful, discarded and destroyed for
another creation of man's brain and heart in succeeding ages. And you
tell me figliuolo mio I have left you nothing to make!"

"Forgive, forgive," whispered Harry, as he tried vainly to catch a
glimpse of the speaker's face.

"You cried because you couldn't make mountains and stars ! Foolish,
foolish fellow, you can make greater things than those; the music of the
spheres, the light that never was on sea or land, ambrosia of the gods,
the poet's dream."

"But to be a creator you must woo and mate with Nature. If a man will
but open his heart to her, nature will steal with noiseless feet into
his inmost citadel as a mistress to her lover. To him she will disclose
her treasures, the opal of her dawns, the refulgence of her sunsets, her
starry depths, the winds in their fury, the zephyr in its
breathlessness, the mountains in their grandeur, the anthills in their
wonder, the purple of her crags, the gold and emerald of her forests,
the gay and the gorgeous, the humble and the precious, the loveliness of
women, and the marvels garnered up in the heart of a child."

"And after conception comes birth, and the world is flooded with
immortal songs, heroic deeds, and brave uplifting strains, which echo,
and will echo for ever and for ever. Your kingdom is the noblest
kingdom--the kingdom of thought; your heritage the hills of Time, the
realm of the undiscovered, the borderland of the unseen and the eternal;
your work the quest of the golden fleece of Truth; your prize the
finding of the Perfect God."

Harry stirred, he feared he must have fallen asleep while the Almighty
was speaking, and as he was evidently expected to reply he commenced
some well-known lines of Shelley, hoping they might prove appropriate.

"He will watch from dawn to gloom The lake reflected sun illume The
yellow bees in the ivy bloom, Nor heed nor see what things they be; But
from these create he can Forms more real than living man, Nurselings of
immortality."

As the last words fell mumbled from his lips he awoke to find himself in
unfamiliar surroundings, and a stranger beside his bed. To his
involutary [sic] enquiry, "Where am I?" he received the pleasing
response :

"On the highway to health, my good Signore; you have had a mighty long
sleep, the fever's down, and your pulse naturally follows suit. All you
have to do is to eat what is put before you, and do in every respect
what I tell you."

Then, without waiting for any response, the speaker went to the head of
the little staircase, and the bewildered invalid heard him order " that
chicken broth I told you to have ready " sent up immediately.

"How long have I been here?" was Harry's next question, put in a voice
so feeble he scarce recognised it as his own. "Let me see, to-day is
Saturday, well, it was early Tuesday morning I was called in to see you.
You had fallen from one of our Grappa's little grassy shelves to
another, a few feet lower. No bones were broken, thank goodness, but the
shock upset you; it's a frightful sensation to find yourself stepping on
nothing."

"Four whole days?" murmured Marston, aghast at the very idea of such an
experience.

"Well, just remember this," said the elder man, " you are with friends.
I'm a doctor, and though a bit of an autocrat in Possagno I'm only
autocratic in the interests of my patients. It may give you confidence,
perhaps, to hear that I spent some eight years of my life in England,
and think there is no country to equal it, always excepting my own, my
Italy. But now we'll leave off talking; drink this stuff right away!
Never mind, never mind, plenty more !"

For the invalid, in his great weakness, had dropped the cup, or rather
it had slipped from his nerveless grasp. So the doctor, having set
matters to rights, and obtained a fresh supply of broth, sat by the
bedside and fed his young patient, prophesying that if he was only a
good, obedient chap he would soon be able to climb Monte Grappa and have
a look at the scene of his accident.

"You'll be surprised to see how short the distance is from the one
terrace or shelf to the other, but when one can't see where one is going
to, one imagines all sorts of coming horrors. Now, are you comfortable?
I can't stop any longer, but I'll come in again this evening, and if you
can tell me you have had two hours' good sleep I'll answer any questions
you may put to me. The padrona, who is a worthy soul, will look after
you, and mind you do as she tells you!"

Though Harry lay with closed eyes, too weak to care to move, for hours
after the departure of il dottor Crapezzo, he did not fall asleep till
sunset. Full consciousness had returned and with it, not only all the
details of his fall and the recollection of a terrible nightmare, but
the remembrance also, too long obscured, of the claims of Hetty Bishop
upon his honour, if not upon his love.

He was lost in sheer amazement as he realised that his suddenly
conceived, but enduring passion for Isobel Barton had clean swept every
other consideration from his mind. Why, he had been practically engaged
to Hetty ever since his eighteenth birthday! He recalled with intense
shame that it was not love that led him to urge her to pledge her troth
to him, not love, but pure selfishness, a desolating sense of his utter
forlornness in the world, following upon a more than usually wounding
exhibition of Lady Cressingham's hostility, after he had been settled at
the Abbey.

He had needed, yes, that was it, he had needed someone who would, as he
styled it, stick to him through the thick and thin of life, someone who
was acquainted with the taint that hung about his birth, and who would
not be affected by it. Hetty had always been sympathetic, was never
weary of listening to his aims and hopes, and, yes, undoubtedly, she
loved him, loved him perchance with as ardent a passion as was his for
Isobel.

Great God! what troubles there were in life ! Troubles that could make
themselves very demons and hunt a man in broad daylight as they could,
and did, in sleep. "What was to be done?

His art outworn, his honour damaged, Lady Cressingham's hostility
barring his return to the school, his parentage obscure, his love, which
for weeks he had been vainly trying to kill, neither returned nor
admitting of acknowledgement.

Ab, if he might but clasp her in his arms he would ask nothing more from
the Almighty! Death, nay, torment might follow, but the memory of that
clasp, the imprint of her blessed lips upon his own would make even
Brendan's Inferno endurable.

"Isobel, my Isobel! yet not my Isobel!" he murmured again and again.
Then compunction caught him by the throat and for the second time he
spat upon his life--his conduct as surely despicable as his art unworthy.

The padrona looked in upon him at stated times, bringing some cup or
dish containing nourishment which she insisted upon seeing he swallowed
before she would leave the room. She thought he needed cheering, and she
told him stories of il dottor Crapezzo, how good and clever he was, but
her charge made no response beyond a low " grazie " when he had at
length satisfied her demands.

She shook her head ominously when the doctor returned that evening, and
even he looked rather grave when he heard that his patient had not slept
all day.

"You've been losing flesh for some time," he remarked after a thorough
examination. "What's been bothering you, dear fellow?" and the
unexpected, tender epithet almost unmanned the invalid.

"I've been walking a lot in the sun these last weeks," was the reply
which came muffled through a pocket-handkerchief.

"Yes, and you had been taking too much fruit, or rather little but
fruit, so it's no wonder you had a touch of fever. You have a splendid
constitution, and once round the corner you'll get on rapidly. You know
the proverb in the Campagna di Roma, "La terzana il giovane risaua; al
veechio suona la campana," and fortunately you are " il giovane."

But the doctor's remarks might have been addressed to deaf ears for
Harry made no response.

"I'm going to spend the night with you," Crapezzo continued. "I'm as
strong as a horse, but even a horse gets tired and goes all the better
after a rest. Ecco ! I'll bargain with you. If you'll slumber, I'll
slumber in this chair, but if you don't or won't slumber, then I don't
and won't slumber. You'll try, won't you?"

Harry's only rejoinder was a slight nod, of which he was in truth
ashamed, but had he attempted to speak he felt he should have broken
down completely.

"I spoke of a horse a minute ago," proceeded the doctor, while he shook
up his patient's pillows, and poured out the light tonic he had
prepared, " and now I will use an equally useful animal, the cow, to
point a moral. Don't be so unwise, my dear fellow, as ' to act the cow '
and chew the cud of some difficulty over and over again. Act the man and
if you can't spit out the difficulty, swallow it right off."

"I spat upon my life last Monday night," said Harry, tersely.

A foolish waste of energy, dear chap, and an indignity which, I'm sure,
was not deserved by your young life. But, no more talking, sleep is the
standing order, so Buona notta."

And straightway Crapezzo threw himself into the easy chair and soon both
men were sleeping with the most beneficial results to each, but
particularly to Marston. You'll be wanting to write to your friends;
well, you may sit up for an hour or two this morning, but lie down after
your lunch, which I shall order as I go out," were Crapezzo's parting
words next morning.

"Thank you, I should like pen and ink," rejoined Marston, " though I'll
not let anyone know I was such a fool as to try to walk on air," he
concluded moodily.

He thought he ought to write to Hetty, but he neither wrote to her nor
attempted to leave his bed, though the doctor's advice about acting the
man instead of the cow had not been lost upon him. With eyes fixed on
vacancy he lay for hours trying to decide upon his future course of
action, and at length concluded he was in honour bound to marry Hetty,
but that he could never settle down in the neighbourhood of the Abbey
however deep his obligation to Sir Howard.

Though still convinced that his art would never appeal to him in the
future as it had done in the past, Marston recognised that it formed his
chief, if not his only means of livelihood, and therefore could not be
discarded.

What was the name of that swine-herd sculptor and painter who, almost
entirely self-taught, made such a name for himself in Milan and
throughout Europe last century? He had preferred to live right away on
the mountains, had his studio there and there executed his best works,
and it would be good, very good to have Crapezzo for a friend and
neighbour. Yes, he might do much worse than settle down in Possagno.

But he now recalled the promise he had made to return to Chesterdoge in
time for the re-opening of the winter term, and that fact worried him.
What was the use of making plans to stay out here when he wasn't yet his
own master? Probably there might even now be a letter from Sir Howard at
the post office, with a commission for him. And he owed so much to Sir
Howard. Oh dear, oh dear!

Yet he never wished that he had never known Isobel, who was indeed the
cause of all his present woes. Did she guess, had she ever guessed that
he loved her? Guarded as he had been in his looks and words, and doubly
guarded as they had both been by Lady Cressingham, could she have
guessed? Sometimes, he thought, she had, for he had once caught a lovely
flush upon those ivory cheeks when, in passing her a book, their ringers
had touched for a brief moment only, but the thrill he then felt endured
and would endure till life ended.

On Crapezzo's return that evening he was very angry (or permitted
himself to appear so) that his patient had not obeyed orders. He made
him get up for the last meal, and determined to adopt an entirely
different course of treatment. In future his patient should have little
solitude, and therefore scant opportunity for " acting the cow."

Two mornings later he took him half-way up the mountain where be was
driving to see a patient, and instead of bringing him back to the inn
Crapezzo drove him to his own house.

They had lunched at a farm, and after a siesta in the doctor's cool
dining-room, Marston was quite companionable when the two men sat down
to the evening meal at 5.30. He had not, however, disposed of his
troubles, but it was something gained, his host thought, that he could
shelve them for a time. Later on, perhaps, more might be effected, for
Crapezzo had taken an unaccountable liking to this handsome, melancholy
young Englishman who had so unexpectedly come under his care, and who
could not be more than ten or twelve years his junior.

CHAPTER XIX

It is the glory of the soul to have moulded and transfigured the body,
just as it is the glory of the body to have been moulded and
transfigured by the soul. Aristotle's Ethics.

"NOW it won't hurt you to talk between mouthfuls," said his host; "my
word, you did talk the first twenty-four hours after your fall, or
rather after you had regained a measure of consciousness. You seemed to
imagine that devils were after you."

"They were after me," returned Harry gravely; "I felt I had offended the
Almighty and that He had sent me as a punishment to Brendan's Hell."

"Brendan's Hell?" echoed Crapezzo; " never heard of that hostelry. I
thought our Dante had ' a corner,' as they say 'on 'Change ' in the
hereafter of saints, medium sinners and the vile, irreclaimable ones.
His Inferno, I take it, is as bad a place of torment as the mind of man
could ever evolve."

"Ah, but this Brendan, one of the very early Irish Christians, lived and
wrote his book, "Brendan the Navigator's Book," long before Dante's
time. Your national poet indeed is supposed to have drawn largely from
that work, of which, I believe, several copies are still to be found in
the chief European libraries, for his imagery of the Inferno."

"Oh, come now, it won't do for you to detract from our Dante's
flesh-creeping, hair-raising powers," said the doctor with mock
impressiveness.

"Well, will you read the extract I made from Brendan, then I think
you'll own it out-Dantes Dante's Dantesque. Here it is."

And Marston produced his beloved notebook, which, fortunately, had been
picked up after his fall and restored to its owner.

Handing it open to his host Marston continued, "If you would read that
first excerpt aloud, the one describing Brendan's voyage in search of
Paradise I should feel highly-favoured, I love his poetic style. But his
description of hell please read to yourself. I had more than enough of
that," he concluded shudderingly, " after my fall!"

"Thanks," said Crapezzo, taking the book, " but now we'll get on with
our supper."

That discussed he turned to the open page and as he read his voice
became more and more sympathetic (the extract was but a short one).


"Brendan, son of Finning, sailed over the wave--voice of the strong-maned
sea, and over the storm of the green-sided waves and over the mouths of
the marvellous, awful bitter ocean where they saw the multitudes of the
furious, red-mouthed monsters with abundance of the great sea-whales. On
a certain day as they were on the marvellous ocean they beheld the deep,
bitter streams and the vast black whirlpools of the strong-maned sea and
in them their vessels were being constrained to founder because of the
greatness of the storm." At length he reaches " the Isle of Paradise,"
and is invited to rest " by an old man without any human raiment but all
his body is full of bright, white feathers like a dove or a seamew, and
it was almost the speech of an angel that he had. ' O, ye toilsome men,'
he said, ' O, hallowed pilgrims, O, folk that entreat the heavenly
rewards, O, ever weary life--expecting this land, stay a little from your
labours. These delightful fields are radiant, famous, lovable, a land
odorous, flower-smooth, blessed, many melodied, musical, shouting for
joy, unmournful.'"


"Remarkable adjectives, are they not?"

"Yes, indeed; now if you will read to yourself the description he gives
of what he saw through the gate of Hell you will think his adjectives
still more remarkable. Why, they came to my recollection astonishes me,
but I suppose I hadn't been quite all right before I fell, and I had
eaten nothing that day since an early breakfast."

"Well, if you imagined yourself in such a hot-bed of filth and iniquity
as I find here described I don't wonder your mind was filled with terror
and that you shrieked aloud as you did, for deliverance," remarked the
doctor when he had finished reading the extract. "Now, come into this
easy chair on the verandah--the evening is so mild and the view, I take
it, is not to be matched in Possagno--indeed I wouldn't change it for any
other in the world."

"Strange, isn't it, when one thinks of it," continued Crapezzo as he
struck a match, " that while the Almighty has surrounded His creatures
with so much loveliness in this life, permits them indeed to enjoy it,
even when they may be living in what is called sin, yet man deliberately
credits his Creator with providing such a chamber of horrors for the
eternal dwelling place of all who do not come up to the standard man
himself has established. In this age, though, thank God, the belief in a
state or place of endless torment is practically outworn. Yet, what a
long life it has had!"

Then almost unconsciously Crapezzo quoted softly in his own tongue :

*1 " Donde l'illimite buio vomiscono della notte di tenebre i lividi
fiumi."

"'That's what Pindar wrote some two thousand years ago. Do you know his
Second Ode?"

But Marston did not reply; instead, he regarded the elder man fixedly,
questioningly, and, rising from a reclining to a sitting posture, he
said: "Was it you who calmed me with lovely thoughts in words of
exquisite beauty, when I at length escaped from those demons? Was it
truly your cool hands that clasped my burning ones and gave me peace
after that terrible nightmare? Tell me, dottore."

And Harry waited anxiously for an answer.

"Oh, I just happened to be in your room when things were pretty bad in
Brendan's Inferno--and as you were determined to escape, even by the
window, I had no choice but to lay hands upon you figliolo mio."

"Ah, and you used that endearing term then, and there were other things
you said, please do repeat them," pleaded Marston.

"Really, I can't be certain what I quoted, but I have so often found our
poetry has a soothing effect on patients in delirium, that I've no doubt
I administered a few doses of it to you; indeed I know I did, and it is
very gratifying to me that you felt their power and retain a sense,
though a confused one, of their beauty."

"Oh, but do give me another dose of them, the same as before, please."

"I think it quite likely I quoted chiefly from Pindar's Second Ode. Do
you recognise these words?"

*2 Neppure il Tempo padre 'del tutto, Far si potrebbe che non compiuto
L'esito fosse d'opra compiuta, giusta od ingiusta Ma con la sorte
prospera, nasce I'oblivione. Sottesso il bene, sottesso il gaudio, giace
domato si spenge il duolo crucio del cuori," and so on.

"That is fine," said Marston, " and Pindar would rejoice to hear you
repeat his sentiments with such understanding and insight. I must get
that Ode in Italian. But didn't you quote something that had ' purple
and gold ' in it? I quite distinctly remember something of the sort."

"Very likely, I gave you a few lines from the description of the joys
that await the blessed after death. You will be able to compare it with
Brendan's conception of Paradise. Did it go anything like this?"

And the doctor repeated as follows :

# 3f "Quando qui e notte laggiu scintilla per esse la vampa del sole, E
nel pomerio prati di rose purpuree ed aurei pomi fitissimi ed ombre
incensi. E questi con ginnici ludi e corsieri, con dadi, con cetere
quelli s'allegrano, ed il fior d'ogni bene tra loro in rigoglio Amabil
fragranza s'effonde per tutta la terra dai mille su I'are dei Numi
commisti profumi e sfolgera lungi di fiamma."

"Of course I can't recall the exact words," said Marston, "but I felt
myself in Paradise and wished I might stay there for ever," and he
sighed.

Crapezzo, inwardly rejoicing that he had found a topic of interest for
his patient, and hoping he might be able to discover and perhaps
disembarrass him of the melancholy which retarded his convalescence, now
proposed they should adjourn to his sanctum.

"You are my guest, you know, for to-night and to-morrow night," he
observed, and when Harry looked the astonishment he felt his host
continued: "Oh, I made it all right with the padrone. I expect he has
sent your traps along by this time. It won't do for you to get a chill
now, though, or I might have you on my hands indefinitely. So come along
in, we can watch the sun set behind the mountains from the window."

A minute later the two were in a spacious, lofty room, its extensive
walls almost entirely lined half-way with books, many by English
authors, and above them hung some half dozen engravings of old masters.
Harry felt how easy it had been for him to take the doctor at the
valuation he had assigned to him. Full of his own concerns, he had not
regarded Crapezzo in any other light than that of it clever doctor,
whose bluntness of manner could not altogether hide his innate kindness
of heart. Yet that he had the poetic soul was evident, not merely from
the quotations he had made, but from the manner of their delivery.

And this room gave abundant proof that he was a well-read man, doubtless
a deep thinker, a man to whom one might unveil his dearest wishes, a man
who was still young, perhaps had loved, and yet one who found life worth
living, though (as Harry had learnt from the padrona) he had neither
wife nor child.

A wood fire burned brightly on the stone hearth, and the men seated
themselves one on either side of it while Crapezzo remarked apropos of
Pindar :

"Verily everything in modern literature, as literature, seems but a pale
copy of the Grecian and Roman writers. Where will you find another
Virgil or --"

"Ah!" broke in Marston, catching his breath and leaning forward with
unconscious eagerness, " you feel like that? Why, Dottore, isn't it the
same with everything, with painting, poetry, sculpture? Why," said the
young man, now utterly forgetful of his surroundings and (to the silent
gratification of his companion) eager only to unburden himself of the
incubus weighing upon him; " why, not only has everything been done
better, far better than any one can do it now, but even the power (so it
seems to me) to evolve a grand, elevating conception has completely
vanished from the earth. Yes," continued the speaker, his face aglow,
his whole bearing animated, " the world itself is utterly different to
what it was when those grand writers lived. When I was in Athens last
month I went at dawn to the Agora, I saw the numerous altars with their
fresh green garlands standing as of old in the busy market-place--men
moved there of finest mould, and youths, beautiful as young gods, passed
hither and thither in soft, bright raiment. Above me towered the
Areopagus, and the temple of Ares, and higher still, against the deep
blue of the sky, the massive purple rock of the Acropolis. I climbed
those rising tiers and placed myself beside the ruined Parthenon that I
might watch the coming of the Pan Athenaic procession. But even as the
maidens advanced with the sacrificial implements, and the music of the
players fell on my listening ears, someone touched my arm, and a young
man in twentieth century garments, with a silk hat at the back of his
head and a collar as limp as an invertebrate, asked me in hiccupping
phrase, ' Where the d---d something hotel was.' Bah, it was disgusting!"

Crapezzo, who had listened to this long rhapsody without changing
countenance, noting with loving interest the flashing eye and rising
colour of his young patient, here burst into a hearty laugh. "I beg your
pardon, dear fellow," he said, " but I believe it is a well established
fact that not only were the ancient Greeks extremely fond of good wine,
but were also capable of swearing as well as, or even better than a
twentieth century Christian. Of course they swore by their own Gods as
Christians, if they do swear, swear by Notre Dame. That intoxicated
sample of civilisation in a place you deemed sacred, must indeed have
shocked your sensibilities, and taken all the pleasure from the picture
your imagination was trying to re-construct. You surely don't want,
though, to be making and worshipping the Olympian deities again?"

"Oh, no, no, no!" interjected Harry, a little ashamed if his outburst.

"And if you want processions and that kind of thing," continued the
doctor, as he knocked the ashes from his pipe, " our national church can
supply you with any number and variety according to the season of the
ecclesiastical year. For example, on Holy Thursday, though no animal is
led up for sacrifice as in your Panathenaic procession, a large, heavy
iron cross is carried round the parish, the sacrifical implements,
hammer, nails, the crown of thorns, the executioners in masks, and the
disciples, I believe even the Madonna, one and all are represented. If
you want more you can order your tomb, as your Browning's ' Bishop '
did, in Santa Prassede where you will be able to live through
centuries,'"

"And hear the blessed mutter of the mass, And see God made and eaten all
day long, And feel the steady candle flame, and taste Good, strong,
thick, stupefying incense smoke."

"There you are, mocking, ridiculing me," said Marston heatedly.

(" That's got him," was Crapezzo's professional mental comment, " now I
shall have him out of the rut and round the corner in a day or so.")

"You said yourself, not five minutes ago," continued the irate young
man, " that nothing in modern literature comes up to that of the Greeks
and Romans, and when I illustrate, or try to illustrate by contrast,
that even life itself is changed from what it was in those grand old
days, you imply that I'm fond of Punch and Judy shows and things of that
sort!"

"Oh, come now, I wasn't so bad as all that, surely?" returned Crapezzo
good-naturedly. (Much must be forgiven to a convalescent who also might
possess the artistic temperament.) "Let's cry quits, shall we? Certainly
we shall never beat the ancients, perhaps never equal them either in Art
or Literature. But those elaborate processions of theirs in which your
artist-eye finds such delight, were in fact tokens, symptoms of decay
and approaching degeneracy," and Crapezzo smiled and nodded his head.
"Frankly," he continued, "I regard Art as a very Delilah where vital
religion is concerned. And religion knows that her strength is not
merely threatened but undermined if she permits any onlooker to
materialise those fine intangible influences with which she produces her
wonderful effects."

"Art exists only to reveal, to materialise," commented Harry almost
aggressively. "Of course," agreed the other, " but let her keep her
hands from the deep things of the spirit. ' The unseen,' the lovely,
eternal things, are the silent artists working ceaselessly in the vast
dark studio of humanity, and when Art foolishly imagines she can
reproduce their wonderful creations in stone, or golden images
delicately carved, in beautifully worded creeds and prayers run into
cast-iron moulds, in processions, genuflexions, music, and what not, she
does but call in an armed band of Philistines which, sooner or later,
rob those quiet artificers of all semblance of strength."

Harry could hardly believe his ears. Statements so novel, so upsetting
to all his preconceived ideas and given out moreover with such an air of
unquestionable truth, found him at a loss for words to combat them. His
thoughts recurred to that figure of the Christ which, in hours of
enforced solitude and darkness he had visualised, and though he owned
now that he had signally failed to reproduce that vision in marble, yet
even that failure had evoked admiration from all who had seen it.

Could it not have a message, that life-size figure? Might it, not remind
the onlooker of those very " unseen things" to which the Christ had
directed the thoughts of disciples and hearers when He said, "The
Kingdom of God is within you." "Out of the heart proceeds all that is
good "?

His silent colloquy was interrupted by the voice of his host still
desirous to arrest and divert his young patient's thoughts from personal
matters.

"You know," he said, as he refilled his pipe, "I'm not an out and out
believer in the theory of evolution, at least beyond a certain stage.
The archaeological findings of the past hundred years make it clear that
Assyria, Egypt, Peru, to say nothing of Persia, Greece and Rome, enjoyed
a civiliisation, luxuries, artistic productions, inventions and
religions second to none we can show in the present day, while noble
thoughts, problems and ideals were equally prolific."

"That's the very idea I was propounding when you caught me up just now,"
returned the younger man brusquely. "I, too, believe the Golden Age has
passed, never, never to return," and the speaker's tones were as
emphatic as they were bitter.

"Oh, I don't agree with you there," came the surprising rejoinder. "No,
repetition I regard as the order designed for us by our Creator, and
already we can look back not upon one but several ' Golden Ages.' You
must read ' Pastor Fido ' --it contains a song with an enchanting lilt
commencing, ' O, lovely golden age! ' The author, one Battista Guarini,
produced it in 1581, and, like you, he regarded the age in which he
lived as dross in comparison with that far-off ' bella eta dell 'oro '
of which he sang so sweetly. And he ends with a rallying cry:

"Speriam! che'l mal fa tregua,"

"Yes, it is all very well to say ' Let us hope '; we are still hoping,"
interrupted Harry moodily, " hoping the evil will vanish; but still,
still it is with us."

"Well, perhaps humanity hasn't realised its enormous latent powers, but
has looked too much at its limitations. An Italian friend of mine
brought out quite a decent set of poems a few years ago. He doesn't
think man at the end of his tether, nor yet that he is tethered. In one
stanza he apostrophises his fellow-mortal thus:

"O creature made of clay and light Thou hast in thy heart the music of
the whole wide world!"

"Clay and light!" echoed Marston softly, " the very things a sculptor is
dependent on: and to be able to add music--the work would be, would be--"
his voice trembled with emotion as he almost whispered the word "
divine."

Both men sat silent for a time, each absorbed in the outlook the
quotation had evolved. To Harry it was a novel one, to Crapezzo one
long, and most dearly cherished. Years ago he had realised the pregnant
truth that in every bundle of life born of woman, clay, light and music
were bound up. Priceless the endowment, but momentous the responsibility
of parents and guardians. For was it not they who in most cases set the
melody, ordained the keynote and the tempo of the marching-song to which
the youngsters would tramp along life's highway? His thoughts were of
the classes he was hoping to initiate this winter for marriageable young
men and women of the district--teaching that would bring home to them
their solemn responsibilities, and at the same time equip them to
sustain them. This project was very near his heart. Would the padre of
the parish whom he had approached, co-operate in the work? Would he lend
the schoolroom for the classes?

Harry, - who feared in his self-consciousness that he had again made "
an ass " of himself, had his attention drawn to the silent figure of his
host whom he now regarded not merely with renewed interest, but with a
fascination akin to affection. What a fine face and bearing were his!
Surely he had the genuine " nobleman look " --that look which a nobleman,
as Pope contended, should have. Marston's fingers twitched to be
moulding that head--yes, and the whole body which so naturally disclosed
in its every movement the lordship of the mind. What an ideal model for
a statue of the Master-man! Why had he buried himself in this
out-of-the-way spot, living chiefly, as the padrona of the inn had
asserted, to make good healthy men and women of the babies born to the
people of the district--or was it the parents themselves that he hoped to
remake? Contrasted with him, Harry felt himself a poor, insignificant
creature, his aims selfish and puerile, his late sullenness contemptible
and degrading.

Then the almost unrecognised silence was broken by the Dottore who,
rising and stretching himself, exclaimed in undisguised amazement :

"Basta! We've missed the sunset after all!"

There was no mistake about it. Twilight had descended upon the study for
a full half hour, and the pine-cones, which Crapezzo had from time to
time thrown upon the fire, burst now into such a jet of brilliance that
the figures of the talkers were reproduced in strange uncanny shapes
upon the book-lined walls. The elder man walked to the window, whither
he was followed by Marston.

"Well, I'm sorry, but better luck to-morrow."

"What sight could be better than this sapphire canopy inlaid with
stars?" asked Harry, looking out upon the jewelled darkness : " The
azure gloom

"Of an Italian night where the deep skies assume Hues which have words
and speak to ye of Heaven."

"Ah, Byron loved my country; would he could see it now!" observed
Crapezzo. Then, in quite another voice he said, "You and I, dear fellow,
are evidently at one in our love for the poets!"

"Ah ; what would life be without them!" returned Marston, " but I fancy
you know as much of my poets as you do of your own," and a shade of envy
crept into the speaker's tones. ' You see I was educated in England, and
later, when I walkcd Guy's, I studied English literature at London
University. I remember," and the Dottore smiled reminiscently, "I used
to spout Swinburne by the hour together, then he would give place to
another favourite. Yes, it is intensely good to be at home with the
poets of every land."

A knock was heard upon the door, and the doctor's housekeeper entered,
bearing a lamp and what looked like an official paper and a number of
letters.

The postman, she informed her master, had been ordered to enquire if il
dottore knew anyone in Possagno of the name of "Marston," as a letter
for Signor Henry Marston had been lying at the post office for three
days, and another had arrived this evening.

"Has he brought the letters?" enquired Crapezzo.

"No, signore, he wants this paper signed by the gentleman and he will
bring the letters on his first round tomorrow morning."

The paper was duly signed and some light refreshment ordered for Harry,
who was then sent off to bed. Both men were well pleased with their
evening, Crapezzo remarking sotto voce, as he seated himself at his
writing-table to work with pen and brain till midnight, "Dear boy, he
will go far I think when this attack of ' swelled head ' leaves him."

Harry's thoughts were of those letters at the Poste Restante--one would
certainly be from Sir Howard, and possibly convey some hint of Lady
Cressingham and Isobel's whereabouts. But who could his other
correspondent be?

CHAPTER XX

But in my mortal swathings I ascend To higher regions. Dante.

BUT when, next morning, he had those letters in his hands, had opened
them and made himself acquainted with their contents, Marston found his
whole outlook transformed. Sir Howard Cressingham wrote with a brevity
which his pupil felt left much to be desired.

"Will you," ran his letter, " oblige me, dear Harry, by meeting Sir
Edward Mainwaring (whose card I enclose) at the addrcss upon
it--Castiglione delle Stiviere? The little town lies, I believe, only a
few miles distant from Peschiera or Desenzano, on the Milan-Verona line,
so will not be out of your way if you return either by the Simplon or
St. Gothard route. You had better hire when you leave the railway.
Mainwaring will be staying at Castiglione till October 12th, and you
will be wise to let him have a line on receipt of this, fixing a date
for the interview. He's writing a book on the battlefields of Italy, and
I hope will give the Confraternity an order. Don't forget the winter
term commences on the 19th. Hoping to see you then, or earlier, in the
best of health and spirits,

Cordially yours,

H. C. P.S.--I enclose Bank of England note, £5, to meet any extra
expenses you may incur at Castiglione."

"Why couldn't he give me some idea, some advice as to what to say to the
man?" grumbled Marston, as he opened the remaining letter. He had
already recognised Hetty's handwriting, but what on earth was the
meaning of the post-mark, "Southampton "?

He had been away from England quite four months, so of course many
changes must have taken place, but that Hetty would not remain where,
and as he had left her, had never occurred to him. He frankly owned he
had treated her disgracefully, no doubt this letter would be full of her
upbraidings. Poor Hetty!

He was inclined to be very tender with her, but his pity, his
astonishment, which soon replaced the pity, gave way to annoyance,
culminating in angry declamation. He was relieved to see the letter
headed "Monthurst," but in that word lay the beginning and end of his
satisfaction. Instead of the upbraiding he expected and knew that he
deserved, Hetty coolly released herself from the promise he had almost
compelled her to give him two years ago, and evidently did not expect,
nor even wish him to offer any objection.

It had really distressed her, as well as Mrs Bishop, that they must
leave Monthurst without a word of explanation to Mrs Brinsfield, for
whom they both felt sincere regret. But the delicate nature of the
circumstances, the fact that they could not write without reservations
that might well evoke criticism, decided them not to send to her at all.
She, no doubt, would learn all too soon the story of Harry's parentage
from Brudenham Castle.

But with Harry himself matters were on quite another plane and he, they
both agreed, must be informed of their impending departure, and of other
circumstances connected with it. So Hetty wrote the day before they left
Monthurst, addressing her letter "C/o Sir Howard Cressingham, The
Confraternity, Chesterdoge. To be forwarded." She entrusted it to their
stewardess on board "The Redan," and the pilot, after taking the vessel
out of the Roads, posted it with many others at Southampton. And this is
what she wrote:

Monthurst, Oct. 5th. "Dear Harry, - You will be surprised to hear that I
was very ill soon after you set out for Italy last June. I got very wet
in the storm the night we met on Beadon Hill. However, I am now almost
well but Dr. Mallam has all along said that a long sea-trip would quite
set me up, and as an opportunity for mother and me to go out to Sydney
has been unexpectedly offered, we are leaving England to-morrow. I'm
sorry we shan't see you when you get back, and I can't tell you that
there is any certainty about our returning. We may stay out there
indefinitely if we find the country suits us.

"So this is really a ' good-bye ' letter. We shall not be likely to see
one another for a very long time, and I want to make it quite clear to
you that I no longer consider myself bound by the promise I made you two
years ago. We were too young to know what we were doing, and I think it
quite likely we may both see someone we shall like better! I shall not
change my mind, for I am sure my decision is a wise one. So you are free
and so am I. Good-bye again, dear Harry. Always I shall be,

Your sincere and affectionate friend,

HETTY BISHOP.

P.S.--Mother was so good to me while I was ill, and now we are great
chums. She sends you her best love."

Hetty had found it an intensely difficult matter to write that letter.
As for Marston, when he had read it through a second time, he felt like
a shipwrecked creature abandoned upon a desert island, from whence his
only known relatives were sailing away to civilisation in a good sound
ship, without even offering him the chance of salvation.

The tables were indeed turned upon him. He had been pitying himself
because he was tied to Hetty and now that she had in this peremptory and
totally unexpected fashion given him his freedom, he scarcely knew
whether he stood on his head or his feet; indeed, all his world seemed
upside down.

Hetty and Aunt Judith chums! The very idea of anybody being " chummy "
with Aunt Judith was enough to make a cat laugh!

And where had the money come from to take this voyage?

Marston, who had the doctor's dining room to himself, paced up and down
for quite ten minutes, until he at length became calmer, as some plan of
action, some way out of this strange labyrinth of circumstances
presented itself. He would go forthwith to this Castiglione, find out
what that individual who was pottering about the battlefields wanted,
return direct to England, see Sir Howard, and then follow Aunt Judith
and Hetty to Sydney. It was inhuman to give him the slip as they had
done. His idea of settling in Possagno must be abandoned, and though he
was now inclined to be very thankful that Hetty had thrown him over,
still, as he reflected, that fact did not bring " sweet Isobel " any
nearer.

No doubt a sculptor could find work in Australia--yes, better go there,
and in a new world forget his worries, forget, if possible, that he had
ever loved a woman--ah!--and he had thought Hetty's affection would never
have failed him.

All the remnants of his inertia vanished, and when Crapezzo, who had
been called out to a patient at six o'clock that morning, returned at
7.30 for coffee, he found his young guest eager to leave him. For
explanation, Marston put Sir Howard's letter into the doctor's hands. "I
suppose he has some order for the School, something to do with Italy and
her fight for freedom. I'm sure I shan't know what to suggest. I'm sick
of the battle-pieces one sees in this country."

His host looked searchingly into the speaker's discontented face after
reading the letter and then he said:

"Well, you can run over there and back to-morrow If the Englishman is
leaving on the 12th I suppose you must go to-morrow for to-day is the
10th."

"Oh, but I'm not coming back here, doctor, thank you all the same. No, I
must get on to England, the winter term opens on the 19th. Not, though,
that I'm thinking of stopping at the School. No, doctor, I'm going out
to Sydney."

"Why, that's a very sudden arrangement, isn't it?"

"Yes, I only decided to go half an hour ago, but go I must."

And then, without any preface, without even having intended to disclose
his position, the young fellow almost broke down as he exclaimed in
tones he strove hard to control: "I'm an outcast, doctor! I don't know
who my parents were, and have been told I had better not enquire!" And
with his hands in his pockets, Marston began again to pace the room.

"A very comfortable sort of outcast!" remarked Crapezzo, his voice
exhibiting neither surprise, nor sympathy. "I know any number of young
fellows who'd willingly change places with you and add a father and
mother into the bargain. What said an ancient Greek writer, one named
Plato, on the question of parentage?" continued the doctor, glad to note
that the young man was gradually regaining a measure of self-control;
"Individuality, personality, character, genius, call it what you will,
neither boasts of nor yet recognises paternity. And, dear fellow, an
artist --"

"All, yes," interrupted Marston brusquely, " but I'm not what is called
an artist, pure and simple. I've found out within the last few months
that I'm a man, and a man in love with the most beautiful creature upon
God's earth, and because I cannot point to my parents, I'm debarred from
approaching her."

"Are you not talking nonsense, ' rot ' as you call it in England?" was
the calm rejoinder, to what Marston had regarded as an unanswerable, an
unquestionable state of affairs.

"I tell you she is well-born, of high rank, beautiful as a goddess and
of a divine goodness. Can I ask her, would her people permit her, to
link herself with one who, for all I know to the contrary, is neither
more nor less than a bastard ?" spluttered the young man. And he would
have pierced the soul of the doctor with his penetrating gaze had not
the latter moved, before the sentence could be completed, to the
sideboard, and stooping to take something from the cupboard, conveyed
his face out of his companion's line of vision.

"I nevcr give advice to young people on love affairs; that is quite
outside my province," he said as, having secured a bottle, he strode to
the fireplace and touched the bell. "Now," he continued, as he turned to
the table, " shall I wire to this gentleman at Castiglione that you will
arrive at the hotel to-morrow evening?"

Then, taking up the letter which lay open where he had let it fall, his
brow puckered for a moment as his eye fell on the names Cressingham and
Mainwaring. In what connection had he come across them at one and the
same time? But he put the question aside for the present; a woman far
away on the heights awaited his coming and he must get off at once. As
his housekeeper entered he gave orders for Harry's lunch to be served at
the usual time and then, linking his arm in that of his guest, he said
pleasantly, "Come and help me saddle Beppina. She will be delighted to
be carrying me again."

As they crossed the garden and passed through the viale coperto, from
which purple and white grapes hung in all the perfection of ripened
fruit, the doctor pointed to the hammock--" Promise me, fratellino mio,
that you will have a long siesta there; I hope, though, that you will
take another look at Canova's works this morning and also see the bridge
he placed across our tumbling river. We all bless him for that. It won't
be too hot to-day."

"The air is lovely," cried Harry, his late outburst forgotten, or at
least repented of. "Yes, it blows direct from the mountains, and is just
the thing to brace you up. If you want anything to read you to sleep,
you couldn't do better than take a dip into my favourite author, Massimo
D'Azeglio."

So saying, Crapezzo took from his pocket a well-worn book printed on
India paper and put it into his companion's hand. "I was brought up on
that, and whatever the thickness of its pages or binding, it will be
always worth its weight in gold to me."

The two were now at the door of the stable, and the old sure-footed mare
whinnied with delight as they entered. "I pass the post office, so will
despatch your wire at once. I shall be back at the five, and we'll have
a jolly evening. A rivederci, old chap," and, mounting the now saddled
and happy Beppina, man and mare were quickly out of sight.

It took Crapezzo a full hour to reach his destination, and it was a full
two hours later before he could present the woman of the cottage perched
among the mountains, to her first-born, a boy of whom any mother might
be proud. Refusing the husband's offer to partake of food or wine, il
dottor set out on his return journey, the going down being decidedly
more difficult than the ascent. Frequently he had to dismount and lead
his four-footed companion along the grassy tracks, worn slippery by the
autumn sun. Arrived at a point about a third of the whole distance he
had to cover, he turned from the trail and presently horse and rider
were beside a mountain-locked lake, its waters gleaming like a huge
sapphire beneath the sun's rays and the light touch of the October
breeze. Dismounting and leaving the mare free to enjoy the grass which,
by its nearness to the lake and the mountain mists, had retained a large
measure of freshness, Crapezzo paced to and fro, his hands in his
pockets, his mind evidently pre-occupied if not distressed.

Marston's outburst that morning had most certainly surprised and upset
him, but the Italian had long schooled himself to avoid displaying
emotion, even under great stress, when in the company of his fellows.
Now, in this beautiful solitude, he let his mind have free play.

"So it was the question of his parentage that was worrying the young
man," soliloquised the Dottore, as he continued to pace back and forth.
"Strange, strange, indeed! Well I am thankful I controlled myself; no
good to him could follow such weakness on my part as to make him my
confidant. Marston, Marston--where did I hear that name? And those other
names-- Mainwaring and Cressingham?"

Then, like a flash of light upon a dark corner of memory--the talk at
that, to him, never-to-be-forgotten dinner-party at Monthurst Vicarage
last June, lay revealed, and the puzzle was solved.

This Marston must be the foundling whose work, a prize font, had called
forth such a chorus of appreciation on that occasion, and who was a
student at an art school for poor sculptors, established by one Sir
Howard Cressingham. Yes, the connection was plain, yet so many artists,
sculptors particularly, made the pilgrimage to Possagno, that Crapezzo
had regarded his young patient as but one among many, and he really had
not caught the name--Marston--when his work was the subject of discussion
at that dinner.

But Marston was undoubtedly the maker of that font, the genius, as
Crapezzo now recalled, who had " shut himself up with the four gospels,"
and after saturating his mind with the story they told, had closed his
eyes until he saw the Christ, and having seen that vision, had
materialised it in marble.

Crapezzo's thoughts turned to Plato's vision--"But what if a man had eyes
to see the true beauty, the divine beauty? Do you not see that in that
communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be
enabled to bring forth not images but realities?"

Thus Plato, but evidently this young sculptor was not satisfied to know
himself a creator, his manhood had taught him that life held something
far more desirable than Art. He who could make fine statues hungered for
the living form, needed the impress of warm lips upon his own, instead
of the beautifully modelled ones he could chisel in stone. "Ah, God, why
is life made so unspeakably difficult?" cried Crapezzo. "Is it not
always thus when Love passes on to the stage. Is one's ideal after all
worth the enormous sacrifice it entails?"

Then, with an effort, the man shook himself physically and mentally as
he upbraided his weakness, and turning his thoughts towards Marston
again he wondered what highborn girl he was eating his heart out to
obtain? Could it have been the Miss Barton of the dinner party? And
Crapezzo, as he visualised the possible tragedy in which the young
genius might become involved, sighed deeply.

Then his eyes were caught by the curving line of the encompassing
heights. Here it towered in awful majesty, now dropped at one fell
swoop, creeping along in sinuous fashion at its lower level, sometimes
losing its identity in thickened, rounded humps, to re-appear farther on
in sharply defined pinnacle or natural turret. High up the dazzle of the
snow-fields, nearer the shapes and shadows of the bare rocks, and lowest
of all, the emerald of the grass, the opal and sapphire of the lake, the
brooding silence of high noon and the still small voice of the heart.
Listening to that still, small voice, Crapezzo's courage returned.

"Galantuomo? Yes, it is very worth while," he said softly, and raising
his hand as he bent his head, he repeated the fine prayer which fell
from the lips of the old Greek philosopher in a far-off backward
century--" Beloved Pan, mid all ye other gods who haunt this place, give
me beauty in the inward soul and may the outward and the inward man be
at one."

His ideal once again firmly established, Crapezzo called in endearing
tones to Beppina, and after the two had shared the biscuits from the
saddle-bag, they continued their way downhill, making several calls en
route.

CHAPTER XXI

"For, behind the creation of a work of Art, there hangs as great a
mystery as behind the creation of the world." R. Dircks.

The movement given by the motionless is the most perfect and the most
delightful--it is like that which God impresses on the world. Joubert.

MEANWHILE Harry, following Crapezzo's advice, spent the morning rambling
about the little town he was so soon to leave, examining afresh the
casts of Canova's works and bringing a saner judgment to bear upon them
than he exercised on his first inspection. The quotation from Plato,
flung at him by his host after he had made " such a fool " of himself,
recurred to his mind again and again, and as he repeated it, he found it
consoling and heartening. But it was the indifference, the real
callousness, with which Crapezzo had treated the matter that opened his
eyes to his folly and childishness in having given it the power to
distress his mind and disturb his outlook. Yet he was unfeignedly glad
he had unburdened himself to the dottore for he was experiencing a
singular attraction, almost an affection for him, a fraternal feeling he
had hitherto entertained for no human being, and the knowledge that they
were to pass another evening together was delightful.

The prospect, too, of immediate exertion and change affected him like a
tonic, and as he consciously inhaled the lovely mountain air, he felt it
was good to be alive, even though a taint hung about his birth and
parentage.

On returning to the house, he gratified the old Babba by his evident
appreciation of the good things she had provided for his luncheon, and
then, passing beneath the trellised alley, he established himself
comfortably in the hammock. Producing D'Azeglio's "Reminiscences," Harry
found, as he idly turned the pages, many passages and paragraphs pencil
- marked.

Here was something about Poetry-- " Tutti cio che non e sublime e
intollerabile." "Ha! that would equally well apply to sculpture, all
that is not sublime is intolerable," and Marston smiled at D'Azeglio's
comment-- "C'e chi pensa altrimenti ma io, la penso cosi ". "There are
others who think differently, but I, I think so " freely translated the
reader.

Another marked passage was that in which the writer expressed his firm
conviction that if Italy is to become a great nation, she must make it
her chief business to produce galantuomini.

"Gallant men?" soliloquised Marston, " knights sans peur et sans
reproche, a term including and involving the highest qualities it is
possible for human nature to produce--honour, courage, truthfulness,
generosity, tenderness, magnanimity, hatred of all shams and meannesses.
To mould one's nature, to apply pressure here, expansiveness there, to
see it assume fair proportions, develop beauty and harmony of line under
the chisel of circumstance, to repair the injury inflicted by accident,
to be a joy and a means of blessing to one's fellows. A work that of
greater nobility, delicacy and enduring worth, mused Harry, than the
making of statues in marble or bronze--an art indeed, the finest of fine
arts!

As Harry pursued this, for him, novel trend of thought, his gaze
embraced the lovely perpetually snow-clad heights away on the far
horizon line. Somewhere between them and the peaceful Possagno valley
where he lay at ease Crapezzo was busy, busy on work which would bring
him neither fame nor wealth. Surely, was Harry's silent comment, he is
the ideal galantuomo.

Every topic he touched upon he endowed with a new, an unlocked for
significance; the very atmosphere around him radiated uplifting, yes,
exhilaration. What a range, too, of topics his mind embraced!

As Marston's thoughts reverted to the talk on Art and Religion and Life
of the previous evening, Crapezzo's reflections thereon appeared to the
sleepy young man as a series of moving sketches in which his interest,
though substantial, was vague and languid.

Suddenly his feet were on the ground and he, seated on the edge of the
hammock, was gazing, gazing at the screen before him on which, visible
only to his inner sight, he saw written in letters of gold and large as
the characters of the boldest poster :

YOUR LIFE WORK A MARBLE FRIEZE SUBJECT THE QUEST OF MAN FOR HIS MAKER
OR, THE FINDING OF THE PERFECT GOD.

For some moments his body remained rigid, though his eyes were as the
eyes of one gazing on visions of ecstasy; then, almost unconsciously, he
resumed his recumbent attitude, his eyes still invested with the rapture
of a soul re-possessed in one brief perfect moment, of a power deemed to
have been lost for ever.

For in some delightful, inexplicable, surely miraculous (?) manner, he
found himself again enwrapped in his loved mantle of Imagination, knew
that the power to conceive and to create in marble was his once more.
Yes, figure after figure presented itself, asking for standing room upon
the frieze which, he had no manner of doubt, would rival in beauty of
workmanship and composition that of the Athenian Parthenon, the motif of
which it would immeasurably transcend in dignity and elevation of
conception.

This quest of man for his Maker, what grand enormous possibilities for
the chisel, what lovely groupings, what personations of Humanity as
youth, sage, seer, and sinless one it included. Truly the Epic of
Eternity--and he, foolish, unworthy Harry Marston, had been commissioned
to produce it! Never, never again, would he feel weariness or discontent
since he had realised in his breast a fount of living, springing water,
an assuagement of every form of spiritual and mental thirst which he
might ever experience.

At length, overcome by the fulness of his joy, he fell asleep, his face
irradiated by " a light as is the clear light upon the holy
candlestick." Such was Crapezzo's silent comment when an hour later, he
looked down on his young guest.

The evening, commencing with ordinary talk to the accompaniment of
ordinary food, proved a revelation to both men, a revelation and an
indelible memory.

As they ate the simple cena, they chatted of Canova, of Art, of the
coming winter and the beauty with which it invested Possagno. But,
supper over, Crapezzo filled two lovely Venetian glass goblets with
Chianti wine and raising one, without preface or apology, declaimed in
deliberate tones, as he steadfastly regarded his guest:

"I fill this cup to one made up Of loveliness alone, A woman of her
gentle sex The seeming paragon. Her health! and would on earth there
stood Some more of such a frame That life might be all poetry And
weariness a name!"

"Am I right in my description?" he gravely queried, while his
companion's face betokened unbounded astonishment as he replied,
somewhat haltingly, "Yes, yes, of course; but do you know her?"

Evidently the young egoist had not thought it possible his host might
also possess an ideal woman.

"To HER!" was the sole response, in tones almost reverential, and it was
in truly reverential fashion the two men drank to the absent Beloved.

A further surprise was in store for Harry, as, rising with a brisk "Come
along," his host drew him across the passage to the study and seating
himself at the piano which stood in an alcove, commenced to sing to a
musical setting of his own, the remaining verses of the toast: "Her
every tone is music's own Like those of morning birds, And something
more than melody Dwells ever in her words. Affections are as thoughts to
her, The measures of her hours, Her feelings have the fragrancy The
freshness of young flowers."

Harry listened spellbound. That his host would be proficient in any
other walk than that of medicine had never occurred to him. A voice of
such compass, such richness of tone, must be worth a small fortune, yet
its owner seemed to think nothing of it. Again the word galantuomo
recurred to him as he noted the crisp touch of the player's shapely
fingers, the almost melting tenderness with which some passages of the
simple song were enunciated. The last verse was gien with great verve:

"I fill this cup to one made up Of loveliness alone! A woman of her
gentle sex The seeming paragon, To whom the better elements And kindly
stars have given A form so fair, that like the air, 'Tis less of earth
than Heaven."

"Thank you, thank you!" cried Marston, clapping his hands as Crapezzo
turned upon the music-stool.

"Come, we'll have it over again! And you must join in. The words are by
an American who lived sixty or eighty years ago, but the sentiments are
for all time, yet only applicable to one woman, the one you and I know."
Harry's look of mystification seemed to amuse his host, but nothing
further was said on that topic. Song followed song, and though Marston
disclaimed all pretensions to the possession of a voice, Crapezzo
quickly discovered not only that he could sing baritone to his tenor,
but that he read music with ease. "I learnt to read when I was in St.
George's choir at Chesterdoge," he explained, " but since my voice broke
I've never sung a note till this evening."

"Well, now you must go in for it again. Here, let's try this," continued
the dottore as he placed Mendelssohn's "I would that my love " upon the
music rest. The duet was finely rendered, perhaps because each singer
welcomed the opportunity of voicing the longing of his heart. Other
two-part songs followed and then Marston begged his host to " play
something." Sunsets were forgotten, darkness reigned in the study except
when it was ousted by the dancing firelight. Still Crapezzo played--now
some of the swcct airs of the Italian school, now a Nocturne of
Chopin's, a solemn march from Handel, a Scherzo of Beethoven, an
improvisation. As Harry listened dreamily, it was borne in upon his
consciousness that every human being had, or might, have, his own
special world of which Imagination was lord and loved director. These
differing worlds of Art and Thought were like so many planets revolving
round that central luminary from which one and all derived sustenance,
and that was what? --who?

The sudden silence of the player startled and dispersed the young
sculptor's reflections, and Crapezzo closing the piano and approaching
the fire, rang for the lamp. Then, as he filled his pipe, he said, "I'm
really sad, fratello mio, at the thought of your leaving to-morrow.
Can't you possibly come back for at least a few days before you return
to England?"

"Dottore, you have been far too good to me, and I owe you infinitely
more than I can ever repay, if I should live to be a hundred," and there
was no mistaking the warmth and sincerity of the speaker.

"It has been a real joy to have you, and I hope you will write now and
again telling me how things are going with you. Now that you have come
into my life I feel I shall never let you go out of it again. By the
by," continued Crapezzo, taking his pipe from his mouth and facing his
companion squarely, " and remember I am not fooling; are you the famous
young sculptor, Harry Marston, who produced a font and a remarkable
life-size figure of the Christ with a babe in His arms this summer, a
replica if which went to the Royal Academy?"

Hurry flushed. "I did design and produce a font, a replica of which was
accepted at the Royal Academy, but that will not and could not ever make
me famous. You have probably confused me with another sculptor of the
same name; strange, though, if I should have a double," he concluded
with a derisive laugh. " The chances of there being two Harry Marstons,
both sculptors, and each producing in the same season a remarkable font,
accepted for exhibition, are too remote to be worth a second thought,"
returned Crapezzo calmly. " When I was up the mountains this morning,"
he continued, " it occurred to me that the names of Cressingham and
Mainwaring had quite a familiar sound. Later, I recalled that at a small
dinner-party to which I was invited when in England last June for the
meetings of the Medical Congress, a Sir Edward Mainwaring was also a
guest. It was then that the work of a young sculptor--I feel sure he was
called Harry Marston--was discussed and also unanimously praised."

"How small the world is!" was Marston's only comment; life within the
past four hours had marched leagues away from that slight triumph of the
font.

"Well, if you can do a fine thing like that figure of the Christ, you
can snap your fingers at Fate, and if you don't win that fair lady you
referred to this morning I shall say--what shall I say? That you deserve
another little excursion into Brendan's Hostelry?" and Harry joined in
his companion's laughter, though he shook his head in dissent.

As Crapezzo noted the glow upon the fine face with its regular features
and expressive eyes, he was reminded of the rough compliment paid to
Thorswaldsen by Anselm Rothschild when the famous sculptor passed
through Frankfort, " You look so handsome, sir, that one would think you
had made yourself." Surely a young man with that face, in which
intelligence and genius were united, might marry where and whom he
would.

Marston had been singuarly quiet all the evening, hesitating whether or
not to tell his host of the revelation of the afternoon, lest he should
regard it as a freak of fancy.

"Anyway," the doctor was saying, " you look a lot better than when you
escaped from that horrible region and never better than to-night."

"Dottore!" cried Harry impulsively, springing to his feet and throwing
away his cigarette. "I am a new creature since you left me this morning.
In some inexplicable fashion the old things have passed away."

Crapezzo's face assumed an expression of deep interest and, laying aside
his pipe, he awaited the development of this marvellous statement.

"You know," said the younger man, " what a discontented ass I've been,
turning my life over with the disgust of a dainty child for the good
food provided. And I was equally, perhaps more, disgusted and
disillusioned with my Art, deciding it was quite played out as an
expression of anything beyond the banal and the mediocre."

"Well," he continued, with a hint of defiance in his tone, " as I lay in
the hammock this afternoon, I received a direct commission, a command, I
should say, for a piece of work which if I can only execute as I
conceive it, should rival the famous Parthenon frieze."

"My warmest congratulations, dear chap," cried Crapezzo. "Your face wore
such a happy expression when I looked down on you on my return from the
mountains, I felt sure you were the recipient of some lovely
inspiration."

"Oh, but I was wide awake," objected Harry. "I had been looking through
the book you gave me," and the speaker produced D'Azeglio's "
Reminiscences " from his pocket and placed it on the table; " what the
author wrote there about galantuomini set me thinking about you," he
continued, looking the elder man straight in the face. "Then I went over
our talk last night and perhaps I was getting drowsy. But all at once my
eyes were wide open and I was sitting up, gazing at a huge poster of
golden letters hanging in the air against the background of your
mulberry tree."

"Yes?" cried Crapezzo as Harry hesitated. "Oh, I know you will say it
was just fancy, an hallucination on my part," he began --

"Certainly not, certainly not!" interrupted the Dottore vigorously, "
why should I? Such an experience as yours is by no means uncommon," he
continued, rising and joining the other on the hearth-rug. "You say
you've been worried for some time over the question of a worthy subject
for your chisel. Well, having given up all hope of finding one, your
sub-conscious mind, which has all the time been busy about the matter,
discloses to you in its own unexpected fashion the result of its
cogitations; that is the way of the sub-conscious mind."

" That's all very well, but that doesn't explain --"

"Explain?" echoed Crapezzo, question and answer both conveyed in his
tone, " we have no A.B.C to spell an explanation of the workings of the
unseen, the inscrutable, the titanic forces composing man's brain,
heart, mind, soul, call it what you will. To come in contact with
manifestations such as you experienced this afternoon is to glimpse
something of the mystery, the fathomless mystery of Life's manifold
workings. We cannot see the process by which the virtues, the passions,
the graces, are formed and evolved; the ingredients which produce now
love, now hatred, gladness or despair we are as ignorant of as a babe
unborn. The might, the majesty, the mystery of it all are as
inexpressible as they are inexplicable."

Marston had re-seated himself and, profoundly interested, fixed his gaze
intently on the Dottore who, looking down upon his guest, continued in
tones deepened to solemnity: "I couldn't tell you how many benefits I
have myself received at first hand from this wonderful in-dwelling
presence, which seems to exist, to have been provided by our Creator as
the source from which our needs shall be supplied if only we establish
happy relations with it. It is amazing, the miracle of miracles," he
continued, with increasing ardour, and striking his breast, " that
secluded in every human form there exists this separate, this invisible,
this enormously potential power. And how little use has been made of it!
We medical men are out to have it recognized not only by all our
patients but, one or two of us hope to get state-aid to establish
schools for the instruction of young men and women in their priceless
possession and the manifold joys and responsibilities accruing
therewith."

Sitting down beside Harry, Crapezzo, full of his subject, proceeded to
enlarge upon it.

"One's sense of power grows and grows with every test we make of this
lovely thing. Socrates, you may remember, called it his demon, it was
Psyche to Plato, ' The Unknown Guest ' to Maeterlinck. To me - well, to
me it is a portion of the Universal All-pervading Spirit--the originator
of all life, in very truth the One ' with Whom we live and move and have
our being.' Yet there are thousands who never recognise its presence."

At this moment the housekeeper entered to tell her master the husband of
the newly-made mother desired to see him.

Harry, left alone, got up and paced the room, asking himself how he
could ever have worried about the question of parentage? It was birth,
birth which conferred these mighty, far-reaching mysterious unseen
forces, that alone mattered. And all these years he had been blind to
the beauty, the grandeur, the potency of this inheritance, craving to
know from whom he had received the great gift of life, instead of
rejoicing in it and feeling gratitude to the unknown donors for its
bestowment. Thank God, it was not too late to prove his appreciation.
Faith in his art had already been given back to him by these grand,
silent powers in their own silent, grand manner. He would cherish,
consult and obey their behests, ask from them guidance and direction in
present and future difficulties, and accept the consequences without
murmuring. Yes, even if they included the giving up of Isobel! As he
paced back and forth, pondering on his newly discovered wealth, it
almost seemed as if his physical form expanded and that by the height
and majesty of his thinking, it had been indeed possible to add
something to his stature.

Crapezzo, returning some fifteen minutes later, was struck by a new
dignity in the young sculptor's bearing, and instinctively recognised
that in that brief absence, he had passed through a formative
experience, passed the barrier dividing youth from manhood, and had
entered on the new estate with reverence and godly fear.

Following Crapezzo came the Babba with biscottini, wine and hot milk.
Filling and handing a tumbler of the latter to Marston, Crapezzo said,
as they re-seated themselves: "Sorry to have had to leave you, but these
newly-made mothers and fathers in their ignorance become imaginative
(ignorance being a near forebear of that faculty), and full of alarms.
Our time together is so short, and you haven't yet told me the subject
of this wonderfully revealed commission."

When Harry told him, the Dottore became quite excited and exclaimed in
his own language, "E un incanto! proprio un incanto." Marston smiled.

"If there be any enchantment about it you certainly had a hand in it
with your talk about processions and so on last night."

"No, no!" objected the other, " we mustn't rob the subconscious mind of
an honour it can only share with yourself. It would never have entered
into my head, not being a sculptor, to describe in marble the story of
man's varied attempts to discover his Creator from without--and, of
course, you intend something above and beyond a museum of statues, or
another Valhalla?"

"I've already thought of the subject for one entablature," said Harry
animatedly. "I wonder if you know the Celtic folk-lore?"

Crapezzo shook his head. "There's one very pretty story of the king's
daughters, Ethne, the fair, and Fedelm, the ruddy, coming upon the
newly-arrived monks at a well. They question the men about their God.
Who is He? Where does He live? Is He beautiful? Is He everlasting? Is He
in heaven or in the sea--on the earth or in rivers or mountains? How can
they see him? And when--in youth or old age?"

"Charming, charming!" cried Crapezzo, " and so true--a quest indeed!"

"Then as a foil to that," continued Marston, "I shall have poor,
half-blind Orion with his face to the east, journeying to the land of
the rising sun, that in its beams he may recover his sight and behold
the Author of his being."

"You have endless lovely and significant stories to choose from,"
remarked the other, too interested to keep his pipe alight; " every
ancient nation, nay, almost every defunct tribe, has its tradition of
quest; its seers who, in successive ages have revealed the vision
vouchsafed (as they were able to receive it) of the Almighty, All
Merciful One--visions its workers in stone or metal have materialised, or
its colourists transmitted in fresco or mosaic."

Harry, with hands in his pockets, was again pacing the room, his mind
suddenly filled with doubts as to his ability to go through with this
commission he had accepted with such rapturous joy. Already, with the
keenness of a true artist, he had envisaged the charm of entablatures
representing contrasts so great as the conventionality of Assyrian and
Egyptian deities with the freedom exhibited by Grecian sculptors. Yes,
he could manage to reproduce fittingly, he thought, the gods of every
nation, but how dare he dream of symbolising this wondrous Maker of
unseen forces, so silent, so tremendous? The taunt, first brought to his
notice by the friendly Chesterdoge Grammar School master, of the old
Hebrew writer to the sculptors, the idol makers of his days, "Canst thou
make an image of a voice?" recurred to his mind, carrying with it added
irony, and conviction of failure foredoomed.

While such thoughts passed rapidly through the young man's mind,
Crapezzo was evidently enjoying the many possibilities for artistic,
aesthetic work dormant in such a motif as "The Quest of Man for his
Maker."

"You'll get fine contrasts," he was saying, " with the Eastern idea of
immobility for Deity and the Western one of action. Shall you start with
the unwrought board at Argus and the rude column representing Hera?"

"Oh, it's too early yet to decide what I start with, it isn't the old
deities that worry me."

"Ha!" ejaculated the other, at once apprehending the difficulty, " you
are puzzled how to represent Him Who as our Dante says ' hides so deeply
His first cause it hath no ford.' Refer all to the subconscious mind,
and get to work as soon as possible. By the by, if you should want help
with marble, tools or anything, I hope you will let me supply it. It
would be only right that I should do so, if, as you kindly say, I had a
share in suggesting the thing."

"You are very good."

"Meanwhile," interrupted the Dottore, putting a hand impulsively,
impressively, upon the other's shoulder and evidently speaking without
premeditation: "Take to thy bosom the banner, a fair bird fit for its
nest, Feathered for flight to the sunlight, to sunset, to eastward, or
west; Fledged for the flight everlasting, yet held still warm to thy
breast, Green as our hope in it, white as our faith in it, red as our
love."

"My consecration," murmured Harry.

"Mixed metaphor--my Italy's colours."

That was what they said, but their eyes signalled the passage of a
subtle fragrant strength from the heart of each to the heart of the
other, destined to grow in intensity and sweetness right on to life's
end.

Oh, the swift splendid silence of the act! No wonder that for a moment
the room seemed to be

"Filled with the shadows of sounds, The pulse of invisible feet."

for mystic, unseen fingers were busy with the strands of

"Love's great cable Tying two hearts."

CHAPTER XXII

"At that moment (I speak the truth) the Spirit of Life which dwells in
the most secret chamber of the heart began to tremble so violently as to
be frightfully visible in the smallest pulses of my body--Then the animal
spirit which dwells in the lofty chamber, whither the spirits of the
senses carry their perceptions began to marvel greatly, and addressing
itself especially to the spirits of vision said," etc. Dante. "Vita
Nuova."

THE soft Atlantic breezes and mild humid atmosphere of Achill Island
operated most beneficially for little Rex Brinsfield, as Dr. Mallam had
foreseen. But the three months spent there had a contrary, an enervating
depressing influence on the health of his mother who, with nerves so
finely strung as hers, needed always a bracing atmosphere; so the
delight of the children at the extension of the holiday by another three
weeks to allow the vicar to take the trip to New York with Lord
Hunstable, found no echo in her breast.

She rejoiced with the joy of a devoted mother to see her boy strong as
he had never been before, yet she could not altogether repress the
longing that now and again would invade her consciousness for a glimpse
of the shoulder of Mont Blanc from the street of Finshauts, a breath of
the life-giving air from the snow-capped Col de Baime or Bel Oiseau. Yet
she was surrounded by loveliness as, seated on the heathery back of
Slievemore, she gazed at the scene spread out before and on either hand
as far as eye could reach. It was the second of October, yet there was
little sign of approaching decay in the bushy fuschias or the lovely
pink and blue of the hydrangea shrubs which she could distinguish here
and there beside cottage doors, while almost at her finger-ends,
bog-myrtle and heather of every shade and species made beauty and
brightness.

The grazing farm of Mrs O'Thal (once betweenmaid at Beatrice's home) lay
quite a mile away from the little "Colony " which in the distance looked
like a toy-town with its similarly built houses and short streets lined
with trees. But Beatrice Brinsfield's eyes were drawn to the sea, for,
to her great delight, a breeze from the north was blowing and the waves
murmured in deep-toned organ-notes at this attempt of Boreas to divert
them from their usual course. The sky, too, was in mild tumult, clouds
of fleecy texture and whiteness scurrying away south at the behest of
their unseen master. If only the north wind would blow for the next
eight days! Beatrice sighed. She needed nerves of steel for the coming
meeting with Reginald and instead, she had only limp jelly-like things.
That meeting! How she had looked forward to it, and now how she dreaded
it; for although he had written fairly often since she had sent him her
decision, he had never once referred to it. The letter she held in her
hand plainly stated he would not accept that decision, at least without
another attempt on his part to change or over-ride it. The appeal, the
pathos of it! How could one withstand them?


"This should reach you, dear Bea," it ran, " a few days before you leave
Achill for home. We, Lord Hunstable and I, are returning in the
'Cardenia,' due at Southampton in the early hours of the 13th inst.
Please have my machine at Burybridge to meet the 5 P.M. Don't try to
meet it yourself, and don't have any visitors. I want us to have the
evening together.

"As you know, I've never referred to the decision you sent me at
Finshauts with regard to the R.R.U.S. I was too grieved. Indeed, I
cannot accept that decision, the consequences are too serious. We must
be together in this matter, my darling wife, for our own sakes and for
the sake of our children. Oh, Bea, the prospect before each living being
never was so fair; the certainty of contact with those already ' gone
before,' the possibilities of obtaining comfort, cheer and consolation
for them and for ourselves never have been so definitely pourtrayed as
now. Can you dream of our living apart, not for a day, not for a year,
but for all eternity? The thought is intolerable. "Would you could have
been with me here. Madame Lanlan has solved the last of my doubts, her
vision clear, poetic, spirituelle, her replies admitting of no double
significance.

"Ah, my wife! the 18th will be for me a date of good omen; in the study
you will listen to the wonderful manifestations and messages it has been
my unspeakable gladness to enjoy during the past six days. Your mind,
then, will own itself vanquished and with hearts more closely united
than ever in the past, we shall together associate ourselves in this
thrice blessed work of intercommunion with the dwellers in the Unseen.
That the benediction of the Great Father of Spirits rests upon those who
humbly strive to further it is the unassailable belief of,

Your devoted husband,

NALDO."

Tears gathered in the reader's eyes, almost blotting out the concluding
words. Why did he make things so difficult for her? Terrible as it was
to be separated from him in work to which he was so devoted, in which
now indeed he seemed to live and move and have his being, she had
schooled herself, as she thought, to accept the position. Why would he
not accept her absention? Instead, he was actually arranging to bring
her over to his point of view on the very first evening of his return!
The whole sad business was to be started over again!

No wonder she shrank from the coming meeting, though fair-minded enough
to acknowledge it was love for her that actuated him to make this
effort, for she knew nothing of his desire to have a lady of title
supporting and appealing for funds for his beloved Society.

The north wind was now blowing almost a gale and Beatrice hurried before
it to a sheltered spot from which the big Atlantic waves were visible,
rising and falling in magnificent fury. Yet that spectacle could not
wean her thoughts from her present troubles.

If only she hadn't loved Naldo so much, this difference of opinion would
have been a comparatively trifling matter, and though she had, as she
believed, schooled herself to see him helped by outsiders, she could not
blind herself to what she regarded as the inevitable consequence to
himself of this work--mental suicide. All at once, reminded that ' she
carried the review of Ambericus on Crapezzo's pamphlet which had arrived
by the morning's post, she opened it and immediately became so absorbed
in its perusal as to be unconscious of her surroundings.

The paragraph on Hallucination and the evidence that visions have been
seen by persons whose veracity was undoubted and who could never be
classed as " visionaries " nor even " religious " served for a moment to
call in question the grounds upon which she had based the decision she
had sent her husband.

For how could anyone, she asked herself in perturbation, who underwent
such experiences fail to believe in their reality? How difficult, almost
impossible, to make the subjects of them see, as Crapezzo affirmed, that
vision, voice, touch, etc., are not produced by any supernatural agency,
but entirely by those marvel-working, unseen forces resident in every
human breast and known either as " the imaginative faculty or that
colony of God, that immortal essence, the Soul."

Thank God, she knew nothing of visions!

And spiritualism, she recalled, did not concern itself with them
primarily, its objective the establishment of communication by the
bereaved with their departed loved ones. And again repulsion surged
through her being as she recalled the means adopted to attain this end.
Table-turning, so strongly recommended by some spiritualists as the
method of getting " more quickly in touch " with the spirits, who,
indeed, so they asserted, " preferred it " to mediumistic work, repelled
her by its crudity, its vulgarity, its triviality, and sometimes levity,
to say nothing of its utter unreliability. As for the mediums, including
even, as far as she knew, Madame Lanlan, what had any or all of them
ever divulged either of value or consolation? In a state twixt waking
and sleeping they were asked questions, to which sometimes answers
singularly appropriate were returned, but more often the replies were of
a totally ambiguous nature as were those of the oracles of the ancients.
True, some persons were furnished through some abnormality of the brain
with that mysterious, undesirable gift called second-sight, but of what
use had it proved to the holders or their fellows? Why probe in the
darkness when God's sunshine flooded the world with its life-giving
beams?

Yet this misty, foggy other-world had claimed her husband, and her whole
being cried aloud at his defection. This belief of his in the duty of
Christians to busy themselves with the possible doings and unwarranted
sayings of the departed had hardened now into a rock against which
argument, common-sense, even tears would effect as little as water the
back of a duck. This pursuit of the life-force when freed from its
fleshy tabernacle, this curiosity concerning it, unsatisfied through the
myriad ages of the past, became by constant exercise an unwholesome,
morbid craving adversely affecting the brain by the necessity laid upon
it to keep itself in touch with every suggesion [sic] of the
subconscious mind always anxious to provide the material required. Thus
the brain was for ever on " sentry-go," in a land of mist and cloud,
ready to call shadows substance and to interpret any sound in the
darkness as the call of " a voice that is stilled."

"Oh, it will ruin him body and soul," cried Beatrice, " and I am
powerless, utterly powerless to hinder."

She didn't, she couldn't see spiritualism from his point of view, and it
was equally clear now that he wouldn't be content, would give her no
peace, perhaps no love, unless she gave way. Either that or a miracle
such as was wrought upon Saul of Tarsus must take place if the sweetness
and strength of their hitherto perfect love were not for all time to be
discounted.

"Oh, God!" she exclaimed aloud, where none could hear or gauge the
intensity of her distress, "I cannot be a hypocrite! Show me some other
way, not, not this via dolorosa!"

And in sheer agony she flung herself face downwards on the heathery
turf, barely repressing the groan that welled up from her overcharged
heart. Some moments she remained thus, her eyes dry, her soul in
anguish, ready to despair.

Then, as to the lonely child at play comes the "Playmate that never was
seen," so to the child of larger growth battling alone with her grief
came the invisible, the world-old Comforter to Beatrice. Startled, she
raised her head as in tones silver-clear and charged with an infinite
tenderness, the Unseen Consoler from everlasting to everlasting,
addressed her;

"Fear thou not, neither be thou dismayed, for I am with thee, I am thy
God, I will strengthen thee--yea, I will uphold thee! Only be thou strong
and very courageous for the mountains shall depart and the hills be
removed but my kindness shall not depart from thee!"

The ineffable beauty, the graciousness of this visitation ! As the
sweetness and strength of the promised help sank into her consciousness
Beatrice thrilled with returning vigour and courage to face the dark,
the pain-filled future. Again she was seated and like Jacob of old ready
to exclaim of this sheltered spot on Slievemore, "It is none other than
the house of God, the gate of Heaven," for had she not, too, like St.
John, the Divine, " heard a voice from heaven ?"

Yet as she cast her eyes above and around she saw that all remained as
before that voice had spoken, the fleecy clouds still hurried silently,
uncomplainingly before the crack of the whip of the north wind, the
waves still boomed their anger at its compelling, unwelcome touch. High
up in the depth of the over-arching blue she thought, like Dante, though
with more reason, she saw " a golden-feathered eagle in the sky."
Otherwise naught had changed and her back was toward the far-off human
habitations.

Then, as if to shake off the effects of an enchanting spell, she got
upon her feet and, moving some steps in front of her shelter, cast a
swift, searching glance in every direction, though already certain she
would see no token of the vehicle by which that voice had reached her.

Ten minutes ago had she not thanked God she knew nothing of visions and
voices from the Unseen? Now she sank upon her knees in adoring gratitude
for that message so clear, so vibrant with help and consolation. The
wonder, the miracle of it, yet, as interpreted by Crapezzo, but a
manifestation of that greatest of all miracles, human life--life under
the stress and strain of a pain, so passionate and agonizing as to put
in action hitherto unguessed of powers, reaching back, as it were, to
connect itself afresh with the divine fire to which it owed existence.
Taking from her pocket the pamphlet of Ambericus to examine afresh the
paragraph on visions, Beatrice was astonished to read, "Do you ask,"
said the Italian, " what is necessary for such manifestations, such
revelations of voice, face or fleshy impress?"

(Evidently she must have turned over two pages in her first reading and
have missed important passages). "I answer," continued the report, "
solitude, sorrow bordering on despair, or hope of a nature rendered
almost ecstatic by the fair prospect it unfolds, and Love intense and
unalterable." Yes, just such forces had swayed her brain only, ah, how
long, how short awhile ago? And Naldo, was he not passionately longing
to communicate with those gone before, and what she now asked herself
might not such passionate longing on his part produce in response? She
must talk over this wonderful experience of hers with him; together on
that first evening of his return they would search afresh into the
miracle, the mystery of life, and perhaps it would be given to them to
discover a path along which they might still journey hand in hand until
they were called to exchange their present powers for greater at the
gateway of that broader, higher Life which men call Death.

But here, breaking in upon her reverie, fell the childish treble,
"Mamma! Mamma!" and she knew that her darlings had returned with
Armstrong from their long excursion in the farmer's cart and that it
must be close upon their dinner-hour. Her step was light and her face
shining as she turned to meet the children, for at the moment she could
truly have echoed Keats' words, "I value more the seeing of great things
in loneliness than the fame of a prophet." Yet presently her body,
subject to the inevitable law of re-action, would exact a heavy toll for
this morning's unwonted exercise of its partner, the indwelling spirit.

CHAPTER XXIII

Nicknames and whippings when they are once laid on no one has discovered
how to take off. Landor.

AFTER all, the Monthurst party did not leave Achill until the llth of
October, and the long tedious journey to England without Naldo, and with
two excited children, proved too much for Beatrice in the weakened state
of her nerves. To her great annoyance she felt too poorly to get up the
following morning, and realising she would need every ounce of strength
for the coming interview with Naldo, she resigned herself to take things
easily until tea-time. When she did arrive downstairs she found a most
unpleasant piece of news awaiting her.

Nurse Armstrong had been told to call at Rose Cottage to enquire for
Hetty Bishop, of whom Mrs Brinsfield had heard nothing since her
step-mother had carried her off to the seaside at the end of June. It
now appeared that neither Mrs nor Miss Bishop were in the village and
that a stranger occupied the cottage, a stranger, too, who could not or
would not tell Armstrong anything about them. "Yes, that was their
furniture all right, she supposed, she was paid to look after it, not to
answer questions, though she didn't mind saying she'd never seen the
people the things belonged to."

"Who then sent you here?" was Nurse's next enquiry. "Well, that's my
business and theirs, and " --after a significant pause-- " nobody else's."

Nurse thus unaccountably, but unmistakeably, rebuffed, thought she might
learn something at the post-office without demeaning herself by
questioning Mrs Gossall.

"A shillingsworth of stamps, if you please," was the artful method she
made use of to open the ill-fitting door to Jemima's gossip-cupboard.

"I'm sorry to hear as Missus Brinsfield's not well. What do her think
now of they Bishopses leaving Monthurst all of a sweat as they have?
Didn't you know, Miss Armstrong, as the two of 'em went last week to
'Stralia?"

(Jemima was enjoying herself.)

"I know Dr. Mallam was very anxious for Miss Bishop to have a long sea
trip," remarked Nurse in severe tones, which, unfortunately, had the
effect of rendering the gossip's retort a shade more venomous.

"Mallam?" she echoed, with a laugh of incredulity that secretly alarmed
her listener. "Mallam ent nothing to do with this affair--no doctor, mind
you, but a bar'net! Yes, you may well look 'stonished, and you'll be
more 'stonished still when I tell you who 'tis as's sending 'em there--it
be none other than Sir Edward M. Mainwaring, as were up at t'vickridge
in June last."

"Very kind of him, I'm sure," observed Armstrong, who had not yet
received her stamps, and was now making a feint of examining a
paste-board box full of reels of cotton; evidently she could not
discover one of the exact degree of fineness she required.

"Kind?" echoed the gossip. "Gawd bless my soul, Missus Armstrong, you're
not a babby? And when I tells you he admired that gell, Hett Bishop, in
this very shop and in my presence last June, an' when I adds to that the
fact that he come here a fortnit ago, straight from the Bishopses' door
an' told me he wanted them two to go to his place in 'Stralia, well--if
you don't know what's a true word to use, you'll--well--least said soonest
mended," she concluded somewhat lamely.

It wouldn't be wise to offend her customer too deeply.

"You're quite right there, Mrs Gossall," returned the latter sharply, "
and though I don't believe a word of your vile insinuations, they might
do a great deal of harm to the people concerned, so don't bring them out
to anyone else."

"I never wants to injure no one," asserted Jemima, which as two
negatives equal an affirmative, was about as true a statement as ever
fell from her lips, " but I'm no fool. He come to me with a tale as he'd
knowed Missus Bishopses' sister 'ears an' ears ago at Brudenan Cassel.
An' why couldn't they have waited till Missus Brinsfield wer' back? An'
then who is it as puts that caretaker there?"

"We shall know everything there is to know all in good time," returned
Armstrong, who had now discovered the identical reel of cotton she had
presumably been seeking, though as she had become aware a few minutes
earlier the box contained only two sizes. "Meantime, take my advice if
you wish to keep the vicarage custom. Good morning."

"A stuck-up creature she is, putting on the airs of a grand lady--shoo!
I've no patience wi' that sort. And her couldn't deny what I said."
………………………………………………………………………………………………… "I'm surprised that Hetty did not
leave a line for me," was Mrs Brinsfield's remark on learning from Nurse
of their sudden and recent departure from the village, " but as for
believing a word Jemima says--well, I've long ago ceased to do that,
though Mrs Bishop has been a complete and insoluble enigma ever since we
came to Monthurst."

All the same, Beatrice was worried about the affair, the more so as Dr.
Mallam, who called in the evening, could give her no information beyond
the fact that Sir Edward Mainwaring had asked his opinion as to the
benefit to the girl of the long sea trip, and that he had then mentioned
his having known Mrs Bishop's sister many years ago. If Mallam saw
anything strange in the baronet's action he gave no intimation of it,
but expressed himself as delighted at the opportunity afforded the
convalescent of obtaining complete restoration to health.

"I called one day at their place," he observed, " but could make no one
hear--probably they were in Burybridge making purchases for the voyage."

An examination of Master Rex resulted in a most favourable diagnosis.

"The long quiet holiday in that beautiful air has brought the heart back
to its normal strength--now he may go in for walks, and sports, like all
other boys of his age. I should like to see you looking better, though,
Mrs Brinsfield," concluded Mallam as he rose to take his departure. "I
shall be all right. Doctor, in a day or two," responded Beatrice
cheerfully. That trying interview would be taking place, she reminded
herself, at this very hour to-morrow, then she would know the worst, and
be feeling the better for that knowledge. "My husband returns to-morrow,
you know."

"Well, you need a little looking after just now."

Next morning she awoke with a severe headache, and did not come
downstairs till the luncheon bell had rung. Armstrong was genuinely
alarmed at her mistress' appearance, and Beatrice herself could not
account for her indisposition. She did not realise that her nerves were
strained to their utmost in apprehension of the coming interview; all
that made life loveable and liveable depended on its outcome.

She scarcely ate a mouthful, though she talked brightly to the children,
and before they could finish their meal a sensation was created by the
arrival of the Earl of Brudenham's private car. The chauffeur had a note
for "The Hon. Mrs Reginald Brinsfield," who was distressed to learn from
it that the Earl had sent the car expressly for her to return in. He had
important news to impart which he desired to communicate to her before
her husband's arrival.

"Was the Earl well?" she enquired.

"Very well, indeed," was the answer.

What was to be done? Of Course the Earl wanted to tell her what Sir
Edward Mainwaring had arranged, and effected for Mrs Bishop and Hetty.
That was the only business she could think of as at all important to be
known before Reginald returned. For Reginald would certainly make a fuss
with Mainwaring if he found a shadow of truth in Jemima Gossall's
insinuations, and these could not be contradicted too quickly.

But would it be possible to go to Brudenham and back by 5.30? That was
the question she put to the chauffeur, and he made it quite clear that
if they set out at once and she remained only half an hour at the
Castle, he could do it with ten minutes to spare.

"The run, ma'am, would likely do your head good," suggested Nurse, and
she hurried off to fetch her mistress' hat and motor-coat, while the
latter hastily scribbled a few lines to Reginald in case she did not get
back at 5.30.

But she must be back by, if not before, that time. She would have taken
the children with her but for that uncertainty, it would be too sad a
home-coming for father if they were all three away.

Five minutes later she was seated in the Daimler and assailed by doubts
as to whether she had done the right thing. Now she was feverishly
wishing the car would go faster, and now blaming herself for her
unwonted excitement.

It would certainly be a good thing to have the mystery connected with
the Bishops cleared up, the most damaging feature in Beatrice's judgment
being the appointment of a stranger as care-taker of their furniture.
Almost any woman in the village would have gone in and kept the cottage
clean and dry for a few shillings a week.

However, she would soon know the top and bottom of the whole business,
and most devoutly did she hope that Sir Edward Mainwaring's action was
one of pure benevolence, if not of sound wisdom.

At last the journey was nearing its end, and the towers of Brudenham in
sight; the Lower Lodge is past and now the car has stopped before the
entrance hall. Upon the steps stands the Earl himself, while at their
foot a liveried servant waits to open the door of the car.

"Just seventy-five minutes, madam!" said the chauffeur turning round and
touching his hat as Beatrice alighted.

"You'll be here again in half-an-hour, won't you?" and she waited for
his affirmative before mounting the handsome flight of steps to salute
"Grandfather."

"It was very good of you to come at such short notice, my dear," said
the Earl as he warmly greeted his visitor. "Have you lunched?"

"Yes, thank you; and I'm expecting Naldo by the five, and must get back
by then. Summers says he can get me back if I'll be ready in
half-an-hour."

"Yes, be round again in half-an-hour, Summers," called the Earl, who had
already turned to cross the spacious hall in the direction of his
private sitting-room.

As soon as the two were seated there Beatrice begged the Earl to lose no
time. "I don't think I could have left home to-day if it hadn't been for
my anxiety to know the exact truth about Sir Edward and Mrs and Miss
Bishop. There's a lot of nasty gossip in Monthurst about his having sent
them off to Australia in a great hurry, not waiting for my return, and
so on. Of course I don't believe for one moment there's a word of truth
in it, but that the women have gone, and that Sir Edward paid for and
made all arrangements for them to do so, I have Dr. Mallam's word for."

"Well, some people must be making mischief if they do nothing else,"
remarked the Earl, annoyance in his tones. "I understood that Mallam
himself advised the trip as almost the only means of getting rid of some
pulmonary trouble," he continued, " and, certainly, the girl looked
fragile."

"You've seen Hetty Bishop?" exclaimed Beatrice, " why--Grandfather--"

And then the wonderful story was detailed, and Beatrice, as it was
unfolded felt at first too stunned to express her astonishment except by
interjections. Later she put a number of questions to the Earl; she felt
she must have every link of the chain in its proper place before she
attempted to reveal things to her husband.

How could she ever tell him? How would he receive the astounding news
that he was no longer the heir-at-law to the title and lands of
Brudenham? And why had the Earl laid the burden of revelation upon her?
"You mustn't lose sight of this fact, my dear," he said, " that we
haven't got the necessary certificates, nothing, indeed upon which any
legal claim can be made either by or for the young man. He himself is as
ignorant of his position as is Reginald. But it seemed to me, and to
Edward, too, who, as I told you, is now in Italy looking into the
matter, and hoping soon to see the young fellow, that it would be better
for this business to be mentioned first orally, and by you, to your
husband, rather than through my lawyers. They, indeed, refuse to
introduce it until they have something more than supposition to go upon.
I, on the other hand, do not feel justified in keeping Reginald in
ignorance of a possible denoument, and as we have had advertisements for
some days past in various newspapers he might see these, and rightly
complain that we had not treated him with the candour his position
merits."

"Well, I wish you had deputed anyone but me, Grandfather, to break it to
him."

"Oh, but there could be no one who would do it so well," returned the
old man warmly. Beatrice was a great favourite with him.

"Now, I can't stop another moment," she cried as, to her great dismay,
she found it was already half-past four.

"You'll have a cup of tea," said the Earl anxiously.

"Indeed, Grandfather, I can't wait; as it is we shan't reach Monthurst
till after half-past five."

As she spoke, Beatrice was pinning on her hat, and then, hastily kissing
the nobleman, she almost ran across the hall, and down the steps to the
waiting car.

"Shall we do it by 5.30, Summers?" she asked, as she seated herself.

"Just do it, madam."

Now they were off, and spinning along the roads made bright by autumn's
golden touch. Beatrice felt her head, too, was spinning. What a change
in Reginald's outlook the letter of the anonymous Italian priest had
worked! And Reginald himself--she hardly dared to contemplate the effect
upon him. He would surely forgive her if she were a few minutes later
than he in reaching home.

They were now in the most lonely part of the road, but quite half-way,
as Beatrice was glad to notice, when all at once her head received a
sharp knock by coming in contact with the wood-work behind it, for the
car had stopped with a sudden jerk.

"A puncture, madam, I regret to say, but I can put it right in a few
minutes, if you will be so good as to get down."

Those " few minutes," in reality thirty-five, were so many hours of
agony to Beatrice who, knowing her husband's nature and knowing, too,
the importance he attached to the arranged interview, saw clearly that
failure on her part to keep the appointment must place her at a
disadvantage, and she felt convinced that however late she might be in
reaching home, he would insist upon the interview. And how could she
tell him of that lovely incident upon Slievemore as she had intended?

Then she reproached herself for her harsh judgment. Naldo would, of
course, understand that she had had nothing to do with the breakdown.
But, oh, how tired she was, and faint, faint for food, and there wasn't
a shop within two miles. The sun had long since set and she shivered as
she walked backwards and forwards beside the car, curbing every sign of
impatience at much mental cost. "No, madam," said Summers, in response
to her query, " by the time you had walked the five miles to Brinkley I
should have you at Monthurst, unless someone came along now and gave you
a lift. Then, as like as not, you'd miss the Brinkley train to
Burybridge. I'm awfully sorry, madam--I never knew of such a bad burst as
this before."

"Ah, well, we must make the best of a bad job," was the somewhat
optimistic reply, and presently Beatrice was again in the car, which
Summers dared not now drive at its former speed. So it was quite
half-past seven when the vicarage was reached.

Bennett and Nurse were at the door as their mistress sprang out.

"The Vicar?" she cried, looking beyond them into the hall. "Hasn't he
come?"

"Yes, ma'am, he came by the five all right; he is in the study," said
Armstrong. "Got a lot of writing to do," added Bennett, on his own
account, for he thought it " uncommon queer " of the master not to be
there to greet his wife.

"Yes, I know he has important business to get through to-night," said
Beatrice, as she unbuttoned her coat and gave it to nurse. "Take
Summers, Bennett, and give him a hot supper," she added, as she called
"Good-night, and thanks," to the chauffeur. "Children all right, Nurse?"

"Yes, ma'am, quite right, but a bit excited seeing their father. Is your
headache better, ma'am?"

"Quite gone!" returned Beatrice, scarcely knowing what she was saying,
and already mounting the stairs to the study. Then she added as an
after-thought, " The car broke down, you know," and repeated the remark
in louder tones. " No bones broken, I hope?" said a voice from the head
of the stairs.

"Oh, there you are, Naldo! I was so sorry not to be here to welcome you.
I must tell you how it happened, and you will see I couldn't help
myself."

Then followed a sound as of kisses exchanged and the murmur of
Beatrice's voice growing ever more indistinct as husband and wife
traversed the long corridor together.

And already, by some subtle prescience, she knew that Naldo was deeply
annoyed, and while she sympathised with him she silently resented his
attitude. He had no right to feel so, but his coolness was hard to bear,
and she almost gave way under it. Yet she must keep up, for Naldo must
be told this very night of the great change awaiting him. How should she
introduce the matter? As for that lovely incident on Slievemore it must
tarry till a happier occasion.

CHAPTER XXIV

Recognising his place as but one quaintly veined pebble in the various
pavement, one richly fused fragment in the vitrail of life, he will find
in his distinctness his glory but destroys himself in demanding that all
men should see through his colours. Ruskin.

BRINSFIELD'S astonishment when, on reaching the vicarage he learned that
his wife had gone to Brudenham, apparently careless as to welcoming him
after quite three months' absence, was only equalled by his
disappointment which quickly merged into annoyed chagrin. Had she struck
him full in the face with her clenched fist he could not have been more
upset than he was by this unlooked-for callousness on her part towards
his expressed wish to have this evening kept free and devoted to the
topic upon which he had written her so appealingly. Even duty, were
affection lacking, should have prevailed to keep her at home, and though
Armstrong insisted that her mistress would not consent to go to the
Castle until she had the chauffeur's assurance he would have her back by
five o'clock, the Vicar still felt and showed himself sceptical.

The Earl was well? That being so there could be no mortal, certainly no
cogent, reason why the visit could not have been postponed at least for
a few hours. As Armstrong was as much in the dark as the Vicar she could
offer no clue to the Earl's action, so contented herself with the
assertion, made in cheery tones, that the car would certainly arrive in
a few minutes. Meanwhile, the children were literally bursting with
information as to their doings at Achill and unconsciously did their
utmost to enliven their father with whom time dragged wearily on.

At seven when Armstrong could no longer delay taking her charges to bed,
the Vicar retired to his study, a frown on his brow and anger in his
heart. He had now made up his mind that a Garden Party was on at
Brudenham, though the Earl had long ceased to hold such functions, and
that Beatrice had been requisitioned to act as hostess for the old
nobleman. Little love was lost between grandfather and grandson, the
former regarding all spiritualists as " dotty " when no actual fraud
could be attributed to them.

What a different home-coming had the traveller pictured, and he smiled
grimly as he recalled the fear that had possessed him during the last
few hours of his journey lest, in the fulness [sic] of his great joy in
the meeting after this, their first long separation, he should weaken
and so let the night pass without broaching the subject, the decision
upon which could no longer be indefinitely delayed. "God's best gift to
unworthy me," he murmured, as he recalled the beauty and sweetness of
Beatrice, " yet how little I mean to her since she can try my love and
patience in this terrible way."

His annoyance deepened as on looking through the unopened correspondence
heaped upon his writing-table he found two letters from Mrs Pakenham. In
the latest, dated from the Manor House, she informed him of her return,
and her readiness at once to undertake the work of a medium if he were
satisfied of her capabilities. Perhaps he would arrange to have a
sitting with her shortly, Mrs Gunter present to take notes for him? She
would not dare to undertake the work until he had pronounced on her
suitability or otherwise for so important and arduous a post.

She further informed him that since her return from Switzerland a week
ago she had been busy trying to secure members for the local " circle "
he and she had talked of establishing when she had that terrible
experience on the Moraine. Would it not be well, she asked, to include
one or more of the villagers? Hetty Bishop, she thought, would prove
sympathetic, and likely to make a good medium.

These epistles which, coming from anyone else and read at another
moment, would have given the recipient intense pleasure, proved
singularly unwelcome. A something subtle, indefinable, in Mrs Pakenham's
manner when he had seen her and her friend off on their departure from
Finshauts and which was reflected in these communications--a sort of
proprietorship in him, the conveying of a secret understanding between
them--served as a danger-signal warning him to avoid bringing her into
any closer relationship or she might prove troublesome. Unconsciously he
was depending upon Beatrice by her acceptance of work for " the Reverent
Research into the Unseen Society " to put the widow in her proper place
and at the same time secure her monetary aid and services as medium.

Mechanically he stripped the wrapper from the current number of "The
Seeker," the weekly organ of the R.R.U.S., and read amongst its Table of
Contents, "An effective answer to the dangerous pamphlet of Doctor
Crapezzo on the Imaginative Faculty," and just beneath, "Sir Brumpton
Colledge on The Bishop of Blankshire's Encyclical to his clergy on the
mischievous cult of spiritualism."

The Bishop of Blankshire was Brinsfield's Bishop, and searching the
remainder of his unopened correspondence the Vicar seized upon a long
envelope bearing the episcopal seal, and almost feverishly commenced to
read the typed pages enclosed therein. His bishop--one whom he had fondly
regarded as friendly to the "R.R.U.S." and all its aims, to describe
spiritualism as mischievous! The thing was almost unbelievable! Yet
there was no mistaking the attitude of the author of this letter to the
subject of it.

It appeared that the Lord Bishop of Blankshire had for some years past
maintained what is called " an open mind " upon the topic, but latterly
having assured himself of the inevitable injury to mental and spiritual
well-being attendant on its pursuit found necessity laid upon him to
take up a positive position. Further, having reliable information that
what are known as circles, seances and mediumistic sittings were either
formed or in process of formation in his diocese, he herewith solemnly
adjures every priest, pastor, deacon, archdeacon, canon and presbyter to
whom he stands as "Father in God " to at once exert whatever influence
they singly and unitedly possess to discountenance, uproot and
annihilate all such proceedings. "Let no such thing be so much as named
amongst you."

Then followed a sweeping rejection of every argument brought forth by
spiritualists.

Greatly incensed, the Vicar threw down the encyclical and rising paced
the long room, his hands in his pockets. "An enemy hath done this!" he
at length exclaimed. "Someone has tampered with his lordship in my
absence--someone who hates spiritualism and who knows my love for it. Ah!
-- !"

And the long drawn-out interjection carried conviction in its tone that
" the enemy " was within his own gates: the one being of all others who
knew how dear to him was the work of research into the Unseen, the one
who had indeed all along opposed or refused to aid him in it.

How he arrived at so cruel, so baseless an opinion it would be as
difficult to pourtray as to map out the workings of a brain attenuated
by a long and almost exclusive contemplation of things that are unreal.
Suddenly faced with an unexpected mandate from the only authority to
whom he acknowledged obedience due, to put away the mental and spiritual
food he had grown to love and to regard as exalting and inspiring, his
first impulse was to refuse obedience, and his next to reassure himself
that someone with a personal animus against his continuance of this work
had acted as wire-puller to set the mandate in motion. But the suspicion
that Beatrice had written to enlist the Bishop's help, egregious though
it certainly was, quickly became a certainty as her husband examined it
more closely.

The fact of her absence on his return he chose to regard as a positive,
if indirect proof of guilty connivance, for had she been at home on his
arrival he would have made his intended appeal to her long before he had
looked at his correspondence and come across the encyclical. Yes, she
had remained away until he had read the horrid document, for it was
quite certain that had she intended to work with him for the R.R.U.S she
would at least have left a line to that effect in the brief note she
penned before going to Brudenham. Picking up the Bishop's letter he
noted that it could only have been posted the night before last, yet it
was dated October 9th.

Besides, the letter, the encyclical was in fact a personal missive
directed--addressed to him only. For, as Brinsfield reminded himself, to
his knowledge he was the only priest in the diocese with avowed leanings
towards psychical research. He had indeed made no secret of them for the
past six months, and he asked himself that being so, why had not his
diocesan written privately to him on the matter instead of attacking him
in this public manner, for everyone of his fellow-clergy would repudiate
the need in their case for any such advice.

The encyclical, therefore, resolved itself into an indignity, a personal
insult which Brinsfield assured himself he would not put up with;
certainly he would not take it lying down. Besides, how should one turn
back even before such lions as Beatrice and the Bishop when the way of
entrance to the Great Beyond, the kingdom of Heaven which Christ Himself
had said must be taken by force, was opening out, revealing itself in
breadth and length to the patient, earnest gaze of searchers into the
things that are unseen? To turn back now would be nothing short of
criminal cowardice, and whomsoever withstood even the highest authority,
or the purest but most mistaken love, would in due course receive with
the martyr's crown the "Well done, good and faithful servant " of the
Master.

But Brinsfield could not pass over his wife's part in the Bishop's
action; had she not interfered he had quickly convinced himself, his
reverend father in God would have remained as quiescent towards
spiritualism and spiritualists as he had showed himself all along.

So it was that when Bennett told his master the long-delayed car was at
the door the Vicar, by a mighty effort, dragged his unwilling feet along
the corridor and greeted from the top of the stairs the late arrival in
tones intended to deceive the casual hearer though not Beatrice herself.
"You know, Naldo," she said as they reached the study and paused for a
moment by the heavy table which occupied the centre of the room, "I
shouldn't have gone if Grandfather's note hadn't been so urgent, and I
wanted to hear what Sir --"

"Oh, please don't trouble to make excuses. I quite understand why you
went and why you remained away so long," and Brinsfield's icy manner and
cutting words brought Beatrice almost to the shedding of tears. She was
indeed so faint and so fatigued she would have rung for a glass of wine
and a biscuit, but she knew the gong for supper must sound in a few
minutes and hurriedly decided to keep the Earl's news until after she
had eaten. "But surely, Naldo, you know I meant to be here by five
o'clock, or at least by the time you got in from Burybridge? I couldn't
help the car breaking down, could I? Oh, don't be vexed, I'm so upset I
hardly know how to keep going at all."

And the tired creature ended her pathetic appeal by putting her hand on
the Vicar's shoulder.

To her unfeigned horror she saw him shrink from her touch, and alarmed
at what surely must be a sign of real indisposition she exclaimed,
forgetful of her own fatigue, "You are ill, Naldo? Oh dear, oh dear, and
I was not here to look after you."

"Sh-sh," returned the man, with unconcealed irritation, while he
secretly regarded his wife's overstrained and nervous manner as another
proof of her treachery, " don't let us have any scenes, I beg--your
absence after my appeal to you to keep this evening free I can pardon, I
can even believe in the story of the broken-down car, but your
interference in my work I will neither tolerate nor excuse."

As Brinsfield gave voice to these astounding words his wife's eyes never
left the face that, instead of being raised to hers, was bent over the
correspondence which his hands were nervously collecting. Could it be
possible, she asked herself, that Naldo had suddenly taken leave of his
senses, was he going out of his mind? Surely he would be all right after
a night's rest--she must humour him, and so, unaware that in passing over
his cruel words so lightly she was furnishing their author with yet
another proof of her supposed guilt she said: "You are worn out, dear,
after your long journey. Let us go down to supper and I'll tell you
Grandpa's wonderful, dreadful news."

"I want no supper," was the unlooked-for, the bewildering response.
"I've work here that will keep me occupied till midnight."

"Oh, let the tiresome letters wait till to-morrow, dear," and in her
effort to keep up for her husband's sake Beatrice barely stifled a sigh,
she was, oh, so very weary.

"I'm not coming to supper. Here, takes this with you," and Brinsfield
handed the typed pages of the encyclical to his wife. "You'll be
satisfied now, I should imagine, but let me tell you," and here the
speaker braced himself to face the figure opposite him, " neither for
you nor the Bishop whom you have sneaked into thwarting me will I give
up my belief in --"

"Naldo, Naldo! how dare you?" questioned the outraged Beatrice, starting
to her feet, at last awake to the terrible nature of her husband's
suspicions, and aware, too, at the same moment, that every vestige of
real and false strength was leaving her--she cried entreatingly, "Save
me, save me, Naldo!"

Was it a lifetime that Brinsfield sat rooted to his chair and watched
that swaying form? But, thank God, as something seemed to crack in his
brain he rushed forward in time to prevent that loved head from striking
the heavy table, and was in the act of placing his unconscious wife upon
the couch when Armstrong appeared, drawn by that penetrating cry for
aid.

CHAPTER XXV

Not Heaven itself upon the past has power, That which has been, has
been, and I have had my hour. Dryden.

THE evening of the llth of October saw Harry Marston at Lonato where,
following Crapezzo's orders he dined, and as twilight was falling
entered a carriage to convey him to the rendezvous with Sir Edward
Mainwaring. The road thither was full of beauty, and as it gradually
ascended, farms, hamlets, country-seats, and numberless isolated
churches, chapels or shrines, embowered in cypress and other evergreens,
were still discernible, and the departed sun had not completely robbed
the reddish heather, which abounds there, of all colour. When the
afterglow had faded the canopy of deepest blue was quickly and thickly
gemmed with stars, their radiance somewhat dimmed by a softness in the
atmosphere not common to northern latitudes.

To the lonely traveller in the carriage they seemed to brood tenderly
over him, as though to assure him he was in their Maker's care and all
would be well. Crapezzo had advised him to spend a week, if possible, in
this neighbourhood before attempting the journey to England, but Harry,
full of the new strength born of a settled purpose, was determined, if
possible, to get away the day after to-morrow.

Meanwhile, his thoughts were of his newly-made friend whom he had no
means of knowing was now not merely a clever local practitioner but of
European celebrity. What a man he was! Really and truly a
man--galantuomo--with depths of strength and tenderness quite unexpected
until some chance revealed them. "Fratello mio!" That was the sweet
epithet Crapezzo had used when they parted at Bassano. Harry breathed
deeply! It was good to be alive when a man like that took you (and such
a poor "you " by comparison!) into the lovely home of which his
beautiful soul was lord and director. Yet was it not strange that he
should have buried himself and his certainly wonderful talents--those "
unseen forces " --commented Harry, in an obscure village in the Italian
Tyrol? Six years he had been there and, as the padrona had said, was
already idolised by the peasants whose little ones he had helped to
bring into the world.

But why had he withheld his sympathy when he, Harry, had almost begged
for it, begged for it believing himself to be not merely an orphan, but
an outcast? Why, too, had he so glibly quoted Plato on the subject of
parentage unless (and here the thinker stirred upon his seat)
unless--yes, unless he too had suffered from that most terrible of all
fears, the fear that he had not been born in holy wedlock? Had he put
the topic on one side as not debatable because he had, after debating it
so often, arrived at the conclusion that no possible good could follow
on its discussion?

And Harry reminded himself that he had seen no portraits in the doctor's
house, that his host had never once referred to " my father " or " my
mother." And he had never married!

Was he debarred from doing so by the same obstacle Harry regarded as
insuperable in his own case? If so that would be another bond between
them. And how was it he had spent so many years in England?

Here a deep "Eccolo!" from the driver startled the thinker from the
indulgence of these " vain imaginations," and directed his attention to
the spire of the duomo of Castiglione soaring high and ghostly in the
clear dark of the October night, while higher still the old castle of
the Gonzagas seemed to be mounting guard over the houses clustered
beneath it. Now they were entering the town by the steep ascent called
La Rata, now they were rumbling through the Piazza Fontana, with its
lofty, porticoed houses. Thence the vehicle clattered through a large,
clean street lined with palaces and stopped at the Albergo Corona, just
opposite the cathedral. Having dismissed the driver, Harry entered the
hotel only to learn that "Lord "Mainwaring had not yet returned from
Solferino, whither he had gone that morning. There was, however, a note
for the Signor Marston, should he have arrived before the "Lord "
Mainwaring returned, and Harry on reading it was relieved to find that
he was not expected to meet the baronet until the breakfast-hour of
eight next morning. He was in fact very weary, and refusing the dinner
which the padrone assured him was only awaiting his arrival, he asked
for his bedroom and was soon enjoying dreamless sleep.

As for the baronet, he had purposely arranged to be absent, for, having
that morning received a few lines in confidence from Crapezzo informing
him of the young man's illness and most recent convalescence, he judged
it better to give Marston the opportunity of taking a night's rest
before seeing him. He was indeed greatly perturbed by the prospect of
this interview, and as neither the English nor the Milanese lawyers had
succeeded in obtaining the slightest clue to the missing certificates,
or the whereabouts or death of Marquetti, Mainwaring had begun to ask
himself if he would be justified in naming the matter to Marston.

Could that letter of the ex-priest have been just a hoax? What good
could follow the meddling in a mystery that would probably prove
insoluble? The young man was by now accustomed to regard himself as an
orphan of dubious parentage--then why kindle hopes that might never be
realised? Thus argued the baronet as he tramped the battlefields of S.
Martino and Solferino, and climbed the hill known as the Spy of Italy
commanding that grand spread of country stretching from the Alps to the
Appenines.

Then, reminding himself of Mrs Bishop's story, and the circumstantial
evidence in support of it, he dismissed his doubts and braced himself
for the morrow's meeting.

Marston was up betimes, and after a cup of coffee strolled out to have a
look at his surroundings. He found Castiglione beautiful for situation,
hanging as it does for the most part on the declivity of one among many
heights not sufficiently stupendous to be called mountains. The Albergo
Corona in front of which Harry paused, stands in the large Piazza of the
Duomo, on the summit of the small Monte Delia Chiesa.

Below lay an enchanting view--the immense plain of Monte Chiaro, flecked
with myriad lights and shadows formed, dissolved, and reformed by the
swiftly climbing sun; sprinkled too, with hamlets and villas, which
nestled like flocks of sheep amid olive groves or clusters of the dark
obelisk-like cypress. In the near distance was an assemblage of houses
running down to the bottom of a wild and picturesque ravine, and above
the gazer frowned the strongly built but ruined towers of the old castle
of the Gonzagas, once stained with the blood of the Marquis Rudolpho.

As Harry hesitated as to which direction he should take (he dimly hoped
he might discover in the associations of the place some worthy
suggestion for the work about which he expected the Englishman to
consult him), an old fellow, evidently an old soldier approached, and
volunteered his services as cicerone. The offer was gladly accepted and
presently the two were looking out from the steeple of St. Peter's
whence, as the old man detailed, both Napoleon First Consul, in 1796,
and later the Emperor Louis Napoleon, on June 24th, 1859, had scanned
the plain beneath, where armies contended for and finally decided the
fate of Italy. Harry found his heart beating tumultuously as he followed
the pointing finger and halting words of the aged story-teller, who had
himself been an actor in the fight which gave Italy her present free and
independent position. "But now we will go down and I'll show you the
hospital where the wounded, dying, ay, and some of the dead were brought
after that terrible day at Solferino!

As Harry turned from the peaceful scene where cornfields and mulberry,
with vines and olives made a harmony of colour, he saw in imagination
smoke rising from deadly guns and heard with shuddering horror the deep
roar of artillery. "Shall I ever forget the sight!" quavered the old man
as he bade his companion pause in the Piazza della Fontana. "They
brought the wounded here in thousands after Solferino--the churches, the
public buildings, the palazzi were all crowded, still they came. Then
the town folks brought out all the straw they had, and this piazza was
just one vast hospital, Signore. But still they came, and so the straw
was laid in double rows from end to end of that long strada there, the
strada della Morte-- (no, Signore, it was named so long before the war
from the Chiesa della Morte standing there). On and on stretched this
big, open-air hospital," proceeded the cicerone, pointing down to the
curving streets, " winding along to the Piazza San Luigi, then away on
the right to San Giuseppe, and on the left yonder to the Mantua road.
Ah, the groans, the agony of those poor creatures! God rest their
souls!" and the speaker furtively wiped away a tear.

Harry, too, was deeply affected by what he had seen and heard, but
mindful of his appointment with Mainwaring he now turned in the
direction of the Albergo, accommodating his steps to the halting gait of
his companion, and listening with undisguised interest to his rambling
reminiscences. As the two regained the Piazza of the Duomo, a small
procession of nuns was seen approaching from the opposite side of the
square, evidently bound for Mass at the cathedral. "Those are the Noble
Virgins of Jesus," volunteered the old man. "Their convent round the
corner," he babbled, " was founded by the three sisters of Rudolfo
Gonzaga, the father of Saint Louis."

The little procession made a striking picture in the sunshine of this
lovely autumn morning, and as it passed the two men (who had now reached
the Corona) in order to cross to the Duomo, Harry thoughtlessly
exclaimed in English, "What a very pretty costume!"

But his interest and admiration gave place to ill-concealed annoyance
when, at the sound of his voice, a nun in the sixth and last couple
turned suddenly towards him, and screaming, "Henry, Henry, have you then
followed me here?" almost fell into the young man's unconsciously
extended arms.

Immediately all was confusion, the other nuns crowding round the
fainting woman until peremptorily ordered by the deputy of the Madre
Prelata to go on to the church, while Mainwaring, who had just appeared
at the door of the Albergo to look out for his young visitor, hurriedly
advanced with the landlord to convey the nun and Deputy into his private
room until a carriage could be got ready to carry them back to the
convent. The Padrona quickly arrived with smelling-salts and wine to
recover the fainting woman, now extended upon a couch.

Mainwaring was well aware that the Order of the Noble Virgins of Jesus
was not a monastic one in the strict sense of the term, the members not
being cloistered. They were indeed permitted to go out in couples and
even receive and entertain visitors. He knew, too, that the community
was a rich one composed of two distinct classes of nuns, " the Signore "
composed exclusively of ladies of high birth, and "the Oblate," the
members of which were of well-to-do parentage but not of noble lineage,
and he noted that the nun who had addressed Harry as "Henry " before
fainting away was, as her dress indicated, one of the Oblate.

A silent but fervent "Thank God " went out from the very depths of his
being as he realised that the woman, now gradually returning to
consciousness, was indeed the lost Marquetti. Concealing his emotion he
signalled to Marston who, disgusted to have been made conspicuous
through, as he supposed some mistaken likeness, was for hurrying from
the room whither he had assisted to convey the nun, to remain while he
scribbled the words, "Come here at once," upon the back of an envelope
he drew from his pocket. "Kindly telegraph this immediately to the
address on this card and then return here without delay. I shall need
your help," he said, with so serious a look and intonation that the
young man was impressed with the feeling that something of moment to
himself had occurred.

Mainwaring then entered into conversation with the Deputy of the Madre
Prelata who, disposed to resent his questioning, curtly ordered the
padrone to send a carozza round at once.

"Sister Therese," for so the Deputy addressed her companion, now opened
her eyes, and finding herself stretched upon a couch in strange
surroundings and a foreign gentleman in conference with the Deputy, the
incident that had occasioned her collapse at once recurred to her mind
and, raising herself unsteadily to a sitting posture, she cried, "Where
is he? Where is Henry?"

Mainwaring at once approached her, and gazing fixedly into her eyes, he
said in stern, measured tones, "You are the Signorina Carlotta Marquetti
who travelled in the diligence from Chamounix to Martigny more than
twenty years ago with the late Sir Henry Marston, who there and then met
his death."

The steady gaze of the baronet was met unflinchingly by the woman he
addressed, though at his reference to the death of her former lover she
shivered slightly. But quickly controlling herself she exclaimed in
rich, musical tones: "I know you, you are Mainwaring, Henry's cousin--you
would have kept us apart. Why do you look at me like that?"

"I wait for you to tell me what has become of the marriage certificate
of Henry Brudenham Marston and Patricia Bourke, and the certificate of
the birth of their son, Henry Marston, the young man whom you just now
encountered," replied Sir Edward, with marked displeasure; "those
certificates I have no hesitation in accusing you of stealing."

"Blessed Virgin, can such wickedness be possible?" ejaculated the Deputy
and, as if in answer, Sor Therese turned, and buried her face on the top
of the couch while sobs shook her frame.

"I loved him. God how I loved him!" she murmured, and then raising her
head, she looked defiantly at her accuser and almost impudently
enquired, "How do you know what I did?"

Without waiting for a reply the woman rose and paced the room
exclaiming, repeating again and again, "I loved him, I loved him! I
would gladly have sold myself to the devil if he would have returned to
me."

"Cease, cease these memories of a bygone, sinful life and unhallowed
love," interposed the Deputy, " let your thoughts be now of reparation."

"What is it you want of me?" fiercely demanded the oblata, pausing, in
her pacing, before the baronet, who was fain to acknowledge that she
retained much of her former beauty, and that the short, black skirt,
white flowing veil, and long white apron of the oblate became her
marvellously well.

"Sor Therese you must return to the Convent and confess all to the Madre
Prelata," said the Deputy, who suddenly realised that this business was
beyond her skill to deal with; " she will sift the matter and pronounce
due penance."

But as the Deputy advanced with the intention of leading Marquetti from
the room, Mainwaring intervened, saying, "Excuse me, Reverendissima, but
this affair is outside the jurisdiction of a nunnery. As you will see by
this advertisement," and Sir Edward took from the table yesterday's
edition of "Il Corriere della Sera," "a reward is offered for any
information respecting Signorina Carlotta Marquetti, or the marriage and
birth certificates respectively of Henry Marston, senior and junior."

"Oh, blessed Virgin!" exclaimed the Oblata, unconsciously rending her
apron in her terror, and turning piteous eyes upon her accuser, " will
you then send me to prison? Have I not suffered, ah, Dio, have I not
suffered enough?" she concluded with raised eyes and clasping hands.
"You probably have suffered," returned the baronet inexorably, " but had
you repented of your wickedness you would long since have given back
those certificates. Why did you not do so immediately after the death of
my cousin? Answer me?"

"Why should I give that Bourke woman and her child the right to Henry's
name and title when his son and mine, then a boy of nine or ten, must
live unrecognised and bear for ever the name of bastard?" was the
proudly uttered, but staggering rejoinder. "What do you say?" thundered
Mainwaring, not daring as yet to believe the surprising statement, while
the scandalised Deputy hurried from the room to fetch the Mother
Superior. "Say?" echoed Marquetti. "I say, yes, and I glory in saying
it," and the speaker eyed her questioner defiantly, " that nine years
before Henry Marston secretly married that Bourke Irish girl I bare him
a son--yes, I am speaking the truth, as before God."

"If your statement is true," remarked the baronet, still unconvinced, "
your son would now be over thirty--where is he?"

"Ah, that I cannot say," mournfully returned the Oblata, now seated upon
the couch. "After the child was born here in Italy, I hated the sight of
it, and, may the blessed Virgin and all the saints forgive me, would
have nothing to do with it. So Henry arranged with people to adopt him
and give him their name. Who they were I don't know."

"What heartlessness," was Mainwaring's silent comment.

"Henry told me I need never fear exposure, and all too late I discovered
my folly, for had I kept in touch with my child Henry would no doubt
have returned to me, nay, might even have married me spite of the gay
life I was leading. Now I want my child, my Henry's child," she
concluded with her arms extended and challenging aspect.

"Where are those stolen certificates?" demanded the inflexible
Mainwaring.

"What do you want with them?" came the snappish retort; " the Irish
girl's brat has come to his own or he wouldn't be travelling with you."

"Those certificates must be made over to me without further delay,"
returned the baronet impressively, " if not you will be arrested and
thrown into prison for stealing and detaining them."

It would be folly on his part, he hurriedly decided, to tell her that he
had neither seen nor exchanged a word with the young man until after she
had so dramatically discovered his resemblance (whether in voice or
features was still unknown) to his dead father. He was puzzled, too, by
her evident unwillingness to restore the documents which happily she had
not dared to destroy. Could she have attempted to tamper with them? To
substitute her own name for that of Patricia Bourke? That would have
been the only alteration necessary in both certificates to establish her
as the wife of Henry Brudenham Marston, and the mother of his son.

While these conjectures passed through his mind he never took his eyes
from the face of the woman now cowering before him, white with terror at
the threatened punishment, and there was no palpable pause in his
remarks as he went on to say, "And if those certificates have been
tampered with, tampered with " (he repeated solemnly) "I will go so far
as to promise you, in the name of the Earl of Brudenham, whose guest you
were sometimes privileged to be, that no proceedings whatever will be
taken against you, but those certificates must be given up to-day."

At Mainwaring's reference to those far away happy days when, as a singer
of repute,' she had enjoyed the hospitality of the Earl of Brudenham and
the friendship of his Countess, Cariotta Marquetti's bravado gave way,
and with tears streaming down her cheeks and crying brokenly, "Have
mercy, Mainwaring, on a poor, weak sinner; you shall have them; I'll
confess everything," the pleading woman fell on her knees before the
dismayed baronet.

Hurriedly assisting her to her feet, and placing himself beside her on
the couch, he thought to deepen her regret, and perhaps evoke her pity,
by telling her that Patricia's death must have occurred within a few
days of the fall of the avalanche which killed her husband. "Ah, God,
what happiness for her," and Marquetti sighed deeply, enviously, as she
murmured, " they would enter Purgatory at the same time, and doubtless
are now in Paradise together."

Then, reminded of words she had often sung in opera, this creature of
impulse started to her feet and without prelude burst into song. If she
had ever lost her old charm of manner and mellowness of voice she had
certainly now recaptured them, and Mainwaring desiring, as he most
earnestly did desire, to maintain his air of inflexibity, was conscious
of a most distressing lump in his throat, as in a rich contralto, with
raised eyes and clasping fingers she sang as if inspired :

"In Paradise will I ask of Christ the Lord This much for him and me--
Only to live as once on earth, With love only to be As then, awhile, for
ever now Together I and he."

As the last words fell lingeringly, as if drawn, not from the throat,
but from the very heart of the singer, Mainwaring got up from the couch
as she sank upon it, and with a curtness which concealed deep emotion,
he said :

" Time is passing, Signorina. You promised just now that you would hand
me those certificates, I on my part promising that if you did so no
proceedings should be taken against you. Am I right in supposing that
you have those documents at the Convent?"

The Oblata, wiping her dimmed eyes and looking as though she had
scarcely returned to earth after a vision of Paradise, said with real or
assumed lassitude: "No, they are in this room."

The baronet started, but quickly recovering himself rejoined, "Upon your
person then I gather?"

"I have worn them next my heart for twenty years," she proceeded
impassively, " a self-imposed penance. They have made a deep hole in my
flesh. I don't know that I can spare them now," she continued
musingly--(her song had evidently soothed her excited nerves) -- " they
ever, unceasingly, remind me of my greatest happiness and my greatest
sin."

"Surely you desire to make reparation?" was Mainwaring's instant
rejoinder, " but whether you do so or not, unless those certificates are
handed over to me at once you will find yourself in the grasp of the law
in less than an hour's time. Yes," continued the baronet, and there was
no mistaking that he meant what he said, "I have telegraphed for a
lawyer from Milan, and any moment he may arrive. It will certainly be
better for you in every way if I am able to tell him that the stolen
documents are in my possession. I will go to the window while you
unfasten your robe."

Poor Sir Edward, he felt himself a veritable object for commiseration in
having to tackle such a creature of moods, of loves and hates as this
Carlotta Marquetti who had assumed the name of Sister Therese. He
wondered, as he turned towards the window, from whence he could keep a
watch on the door, how it was that the Mother Superior had not arrived,
or the Deputy returned. What he desired after the certificates had been
given up, was a full confession either written or signed by the culprit.
At this moment he felt a light missile strike him on the back, and
stooping to pick it up as it fell to the ground, he found it to be a
small straw-wallet which had evidently been suspended from the neck, and
by the coarseness of the straw must have produced great irritation if
placed next to the skin.

"Now, I hope you are satisfied," cried the woman as, having unbuttoned
the flap, Mainwaring drew from the pocket two small, discoloured
parchments which, on opening, proved to be the desired and at the same
time, tampered-with certificates. Even as he glanced at them Sister
Therese crossed the floor, evidently intending to leave the room, when
the door was flung open and the Madre Prelata entered, followed by
Pietro Settamanare.

CHAPTER XXVI "So are our human fates, For while the spirit awaits The
dawning that was gray Rounds to the perfect day Of unalloyed romance."

WHILE events of such vital importance to Harry Marston were taking place
in one room of the Hotel Corona, he, all unconscious of them,
impatiently awaited the expected call from the baronet upon the
grape-trellised verandah overlooking the garden of that hostelry.
Thither the padrone had brought the young man's petit dejeuner, and as
minutes resolved themselves into hours and no call came, Marston began
to doubt the existence of any personal significance in those few words
of the Englishman's when handing him a telegram to dispatch to Milan,
"Return here, I shall need your help."

At first he had asked himself if this nun, who had surely found in his
voice and bearing some resemblance to her husband, could indeed be his
long-lost mother? But this assumption was speedily put to flight as he
recalled the words of the old soldier when the little company of nuns
had appeared on the Piazza. "They are the Noble Virgins of Jesus."

So it was clear that neither this particular nun, nor any memeber [sic]
of that community, could be his or anybody's mother, unless indeed a
false declaration had been made and the authorities deceived thereby.

And Marston asked himself whether, after all, he really wanted to have
the mystery connected with his birth cleared up? Was not this one of
those cases where ignorance, in comparison with knowledge, might be
bliss?

Yet it was certainly strange that the nun whom he had heard addressed as
Sor Therese by the Deputy, should have applied to him his own, and
conceivably, his father's Christian name.

But perhaps the strangest part of this strange business lay, to
Marston's thinking, in the fact that he found something familiar in the
fainting nun's features, ay, and even in her voice. Where could he have
met with anyone at all like her? He ransacked memory in the hope of
finding some clue to her connection with his early childhood, but
neither "Aunt Judith " nor the woman he dimly recalled as his
foster-mother bore the slightest resemblance to this handsome nun, whom
he judged must be between fifty and sixty.

Baffled on this point, he turned to another puzzling feature of this
strange affair. What could the Englishman, the maker of books on Italian
battlefields, have to do with the nun whom presumably he had never set
eyes on until she had fallen fainting in his, Harry's, arms? And what
could be the meaning of such a prolonged interview?

All the summer visitors had left Castiglione, so Marston had the
verandah practically to himself as he tried vainly to weave something
like a substantial tapis upon which to place the affair. But the threads
of which he would have made his weft and woof, broke whenever he
attempted to stretch them, so he at length abandoned the work as
hopeless, and, dismissing it from his thoughts, took Hetty Bishop's
letter from his pocket and carefully re-read it.

As he did so it occurred to him for the first time that the girl must
have been very ill, and that her condition must still be serious, or a
long sailing trip would not have been prescribed for her. What a
selfish, self-centred creature must he be not to have recognised this
probability before! Might not the state of her health have been the main
reason for freeing herself and him? Well, he would waste no time in
getting off to Sydney, and if Hetty needed anything, medical advice or
further change, he vowed he would work as he had never worked before to
minister to her necessities.

Reminded that he could not leave for England until he had interviewed
Sir Edward Mainwaring, Marston sought the landlord to enquire if the
fainting nun had now gone back to the Convent. Just as he had put the
question, both men were startled by an outburst of song proceeding from
the baronet's private sitting-room and unmistakeably from the lips of
the nun.

Motionless they stood and as the last notes fell lingeringly in liquid
beauty on the air, Marston, as if upon holy ground, returned with hushed
footfall to the verandah, marvelling more than ever.

Then, though he knew it was a foolish thing to do, he recalled the rare
occasions upon which he had been a seen, or unseen, listener to the
exquisite soprano of Isobel Barton as she sang that lovely, entreating
prayer, "O Divine Redeemer " or the sweet "Adelaide " of Beethoven. He
sighed deeply as he asked himself if he was indeed cut off for ever from
her society, if he were doomed never to tell her of his love.

Later he heard a motor stop at the front door of the Corona and a man's
voice ask for Sir Edward Mainwaring, then a minute after the softer, but
imperious, tones of a woman demanding the Sor Therese. Marston heard
both man and woman enter the baronet's room and for another hour he
paced the verandah. Then the landlord sought him with a request that he
would at once wait upon the "Lord " Mainwaring.

The sense of approaching crisis was now strongly upon him, and it was
only by the exercise of great mental pressure that he compelled his body
to follow the messenger. His nervousness, though well concealed, by an
almost unnatural calmness, was increased and almost disclosed by what he
deemed the bungling of the padrone who, as he threw open the door of the
baronet's private room, announced him "The Lord Henry Marston." What
blundering idiots these foreigners are!" muttered Harry, vindictively.
He hated to be placed in a false position, even for a moment, and of
course had no idea that orders had been privately given to the landlord
so to announce him.

As the door closed he found himself in the presence of a little group of
four (two of either sex), all standing as if awaiting his arrival. The
man whom he already knew as Sir Edward Mainwaring at once advanced and
cordially and familiarly shaking him by the hand apologised for having
kept him waiting so long.

"Now allow me to introduce you," he continued, as he turned to the
ladies. "The Madre Prelata of the Convent of the Noble Virgins of Jesus
and Sister Therese whom, three hours ago, you assisted to carry here in
a fainting condition. Though now so much better, she is in great need of
complete rest and is therefore returning almost directly to the Convent
in the care of the Madre Prelata."

During these remarks the oblata stood with downcast eyes supporting
herself by resting one hand upon the table; there were traces of tears
on her cheeks, and Harry felt genuinely distressed for her, she looked
such a pathetic figure. His interest was, however, immediately diverted
by the baronet's next remark. "I begged her, though, to remain for
another five minutes in order that you might yourself see and thank her
for what you will, I am sure, acknowledge to be a signal service.
Through the likeness in voice and bearing to your father, which she so
providentially discovered when passing you this morning, she has been
able to make over to us the long-lost certificates of your birth and
your parents' marriage."

"God be praised," involuntarily and fervently ejaculated Harry, his gaze
fixed unwaveringly upon the nun whose figure trembled slightly though
she did not raise her eyes. With unconscious grace he ventured to take
her hand and press his lips upon it. "I thank you from the bottom of my
heart, Sister Therese," he commenced, " but --"

The Oblata hurriedly withdrew her hand and a shudder passed through her
frame as before Marston could add another word, Mainwaring intervened,
his words barely concealing a command. "We must not detain these ladies
longer, they are most anxious to depart and it is imperative that the
Sor Therese should have no further excitement. The revival of
long-buried memories has proved almost too much for her strength."

"Davvero si!" observed the Madre Prelata curtly as, with a comprehensive
bow to the three gentlemen, stately as becomes a lady bishop, she
motioned to the Oblata to follow her to the door, beside which the other
man, to whom Harry had not yet been introduced, was now standing.

The brevity of the incident, the guilty air of Sister Therese, the
inexplicable behaviour of the Englishman, deepened Marston's perplexity.
He wanted to talk to the woman who had known and probably talked with
his father and mother, yet she was not only dumb in his presence but the
Englishman evidently anxious to get her out of the way.

As yet the young man had no idea who his parents were, and the one
person who had known them was now being whisked from his sight without
exchanging a word with him. Even as these thoughts chased one another
through his mind, the door opened, the nuns passed over the threshold,
and when their footfalls had died into silence, Mainwaring completed
Marston's mystification by executing not a pas seul merely but the giddy
tarantelle. The Italian lawyer, after a momentary hesitation, caught the
Englishman's enthusiasm and for a full minute Harry had the unique
experience of watching two stout gentlemen whirl round and round upon an
unstable axis to fall prone presently upon the nearest piece of
furniture. That breakdown saved the situation, and though at the time of
its performance it evoked a little silent contempt in the breast of the
onlooker, in after years it proved one of the young lord's happiest
memories. It was so good of Sir Edward to be so glad on his account.

As soon as the baronet could get his breath he said: "One minute, Harry,
give me a minute!" Then, rising, he drew the puzzled young man to the
window and appreciation evident in his eyes he cried, "Welcome, my dear
fellow to the bosom of your family! Your father and I were first
cousins. Ah, that reminds me," and the speaker broke off suddenly and
turned to the still panting Italian : -- "Favour me, Signor Settamanare
by wiring at once to the Earl--' Grandson and documents to hand, letter
follows.' Here's the address! " and, taking a card from his vest pocket,
he handed it to the Italian.

"Ought not one to go to the lawyers?" said the latter, while Marston
muttered the words, "Earl, grandson, documents " tossing them from his
lips again and again, as though expecting, like a juggler with three
balls that a fourth would shortly appear. And he was right in his
expectation, for without any jugglery, except that exercised by those
great necromancers Time and Circumstance, the fourth and most delightful
of all words was quickly tossing with the other three, "Isobel, earl,
grandson, documents!" Then, as if the achievement had drained him of
every vestige of strength, he hurriedly seated himself upon the nearest
chair, physically unable to stand upright.

"Ah, the shock for him is very great," cried Settamanare, as he left the
room, while the baronet poured out wine which he insisted his
newly-found relative should immediately swallow. "You've been ill, I
ought to have remembered," he said apologetically, " but I'm not used to
this sort of work and didn't know how best to break the news. We all
need a good square meal," he continued, as he watched with some concern
the ebb and flow of colour in the young man's cheeks, " and when
Settamanare comes back we'll have it."

"I'm quite all right now," said Harry, a little ashamed of this
exhibition of weakness. "But everything is so strange; half-an-hour ago
I didn't know that I had a relative in the world and now you tell me I
am your cousin and that an Earl is my grandfather. But perhaps I have
made a mistake and have been dreaming," he continued, and he passed his
hand wearily over his eyes. "No, no," returned the baronet decisively, "
you are, without any sort of doubt, the son of Lord Henry Brudenham
Marston who secretly married your mother, Patricia Bourke, own sister to
Mrs Bishop of Monthurst."

"Aunt Judith?" interrupted Harry. "But then, why --?"

"Ah, you may well ask ' why,' my dear fellow; there's a lot for you to
hear, and when the confession we succeeded in getting from that wretched
nun is properly set out you will understand things better. She had
actually worn the certificates in a straw wallet next to her skin for
nearly twenty years." "Poor thing! I can't help feeling very sorry for
her; she looked such a pathetic object. She must have suffered a lot
without those straws sticking into her flesh. And I can't see what
object she had in stealing the documents. But, as you say, I shall
understand things better when I've seen her confession."

"Of course you will," assented Mainwaring, who was by no means anxious
for his young relative to see that confession.

"I wonder," continued Harry, " whether you can explain how it is that I
found her face and her voice familiar? I must have seen her some time,
but when or where I can't recall. Would she be any relation to Aunt
Judith?"

"Certainly not," and the baronet's tones were as emphatic as his words,
" and I'll answer for it that Mrs Bishop never set eyes on her. Besides,
she has been a nun for more than eighteen years, and when she saw you,
if she ever did see you, you were not more than six or seven weeks old.
You'll own that children of that age can scarcely be expected to
memorise the features of a casual visitor."

"Well, I must have met someone who resembles her, since I was a baby,"
Marston maintained, " but there's another thing that puzzles me, and
that is, how you first heard of my existence, and why you have taken so
much trouble for me, dear sir?"

"Ah, thereby hangs a tale, and a very long tale too, so, with your
permission, I will postpone the telling until after lunch. I had a very
strenuous time with Sor Therese --"

"And haven't you had anything since your early coffee?" interrupted
Harry, genuinely distressed.

"Oh, I shall be all right directly, and here comes Settamanare. I must
tell you that he was most pessimistic about this business, was certain
we should never find the certificates, nor the Signorina Marquetti, nor
Sor Therese."

The lawyer re-entered the room, just in time to hear Mainwaring's
accusations, and with a shrug of the shoulders and a deprecating smile
he said: "But it is one great miracle non e vero?" And Harry most fully
agreed it was " one great miracle."

"And miracles of this nature sprung unsuspectingly upon a hungry fellow
take a lot out of him, I can tell you," added Sir Edward feelingly: "Ah,
here's the padrone. Lunch served, eh? All right, we follow." And as the
three men passed to the now empty public dining-room he said to Marston,
"I know you must be dying with curiosity, but make a good meal and, back
again in my room, I'll tell you all I know."

CHAPTER XXVII

Whatever influences, impulsions or inclinations there be from the Lights
above, it were a piece of wisdom to make one of those wise men who
over-rule their stars. Sir Thomas Browne.

"SO you've been the guest of the famous Dottor Crapezzo," remarked
Mainwaring, as the padrone carried off the remnants of a light but much
appreciated meal and left his guests to their coffee and cigarettes.

"Famous?" echoed Harry wonderingly. "Ah ! " -- and then, evidently
checking words upon his lips--he said again, "Famous?"

"Yes, famous," returned the baronet decisively; "Surely you've heard of
the paper he read at the International Medical Congress held in
Chesterdoge last June, which has set all Christendom baying like so many
dogs threatened with the loss of an old but well-loved bone?"

"The bone of contention, eh?" suggested the lawyer with a cynical laugh,
while Marston shook his head.

"He's a fair, rather than dark, Italian," continued the baronet, " about
your height and build, and wears spectacles."

"My Dottor Crapezzo doesn't wear spectacles, though he certainly
deserves fame if any one does," said Harry warmly. "I never met a man
before who could talk so well on so many subjects. He told me that you
and he were fellow-guests at a dinner-party last summer, but he said
nothing about reading a paper or delivering a speech, and he certainly
didn't wear spectacles the three days I spent at his house."

"He will no doubt have worn glasses at the Congress," ventured
Settamanare, " to make himself look older. Certainly Enrico Crapezzo
who, I believe, is not much over thirty, and whose pamphlet on the
Imaginative Faculty the Holy Father has now placed on the Index, is the
only doctor of that name in Possagno. At least, that it [sic] what last
night's ' Il Corriere ' asserts."

"Oh, he's on the Index, is he? I didn't know that, and can see no
justification for the Pope's action in placing him there," remarked Sir
Edward. "Neither he nor his advisers can deny the truth of the Dottore's
cardinal statement on faith. It is crystallised Hope--Hope crystallised.
His treatment of the Imaginative Faculty is simply a variation, an
expansion of our Lord's theme, ' Out of the heart proceedeth -- ' you
know the rest."

"Yes, and San Paulo called it the fruits of the spirit and the flesh,"
said the lawyer.

"No teaching, to my mind, could be more orthodox," asserted the baronet.
"Besides, Crapezzo expresses the strongest disapprobation of any effort
to dispossess humanity of the hope, the faith that cheers and sustains
it by whatever name described."

"In that he but follows the role of all philosophers, from Socrates to
Montaigne, and thence to Goethe onwards," said the Italian ; " the papal
curia no doubt find Crapezzo's Imaginative Faculty identical with
Haeckel's ' Speculation ' and there, for them, the matter ends. To my
mind the best thing in my compatriot's paper and one for which all
Christendom should be profoundly grateful is the strong note of warning
conveyed under his last division--' The Imaginative Faculty as Tempter.'
Look at Europe at the present moment," continued the speaker, throwing
his hands out, palms upward. "Every nation, every class except, perhaps,
the old regime, mad to realise differing ideals, ideals which are
certain to bring disaster and ruin merely in the effort to obtain, and
which when stereotyped will lose all desirability and much, if not all,
of their imagined usefulness."

"Idealism is often magnificent, though, as its name implies, rarely
practicable or practical," observed the baronet sententiously. "It's a
fox extremely good to hunt but rarely good to kill--the brush isn't worth
the expenditure of horse-flesh or cost of hounds. Yet here is little
Europe as the hunting-ground of such widely different ideals as
Wilhelm-the-Second's and those of Socialists and Revolutionaries. It
doesn't need a soothsayer to warn us that events are hurrying the
nations to Armageddon."

"Your pessimism is more than skin-deep, I see," remarked Mainwaring,
and, turning to Harry, he asked, "Are you optimist or pessimist?"

Harry started, a look of abstraction slowly leaving his face, for he had
found it impossible to follow the talk of his elders when Crapezzo was
no longer the subject of it. His mind, indeed, was an arena wherein
thought jostled thought, only to be opposed by possibilities and
conjectures now delightful, now painful, but all of a bewildering
nature.

"Who am I? I must see Isobel before she can hear of the change in my
fortunes! Oh, that I were again the poor penniless sculptor! Now I can
give her a title. But even with that, will she, can she condescend to
bestow her priceless affection on unworthy me? My mother? Would she were
living now! Will there be perhaps a miniature of her? She will not, she
cannot have been another Aunt Judith. Hetty? Ah, I see now why she wrote
that letter, why she was even glad to have an excuse for putting the
ocean between us. Good Hetty! Lady Victoria? What will she say when she
knows the truth about me? Crapezzo? dear Crapezzo! It is Crapezzo who is
so like the Sor Therese--yes, and their voices, too. Why do I not say
this to Sir Edward? What unseen force keeps me silent?" And it was from
this apparently interminable muster of conjectures that the baronet's
question effectually freed him, though he saw at once that no answer was
expected, and heard with relief the lawyer say, as he rose from his
seat, "I must be getting back. Have you any further instructions,
Excellency?"

"Keep all you know to yourself, please, until you hear from me, but have
the advertisements at once discontinued. Probably I and my cousin will
leave by to-night's mail, for I must put the Marquetti's confession
before the Earl and his lawyers with the least possible delay. I really
think," and there was now a teasing quality apparent in the speaker's
tones, " that all you have to do is to send us your bill of costs which,
if not of an exorbitant nature, we shall gladly pay, though, indeed, we
could have managed quite well without you. Non e vero?" he concluded
laughingly.

"Ebbene! This affair ought to cure me of pessimism for ever," said the
Italian, as with congratulations to the newly-found relatives, he bowed
himself out and was soon spinning back to Milan in the car that brought
him thence.

After instructing the landlord to have a vehicle in readiness to catch
the English mail at Milan, Mainwaring and Marston returned to the
private sitting-room, the former remarking:

"I gave my man, Bristow, twelve hours' holiday from six this morning,
not anticipating such a speedy departure. He's used to quick changes,
though, so we needn't worry. Now, old chap," he continued, motioning
Harry to a seat, " for your questions. As Balzac puts it in one of his
novels, ' the note of interrogation is the source of all knowledge,' so
fire away. Let me first say, though, that I'm not in the least surprised
that the Sor Therese recognised in you her lost lover, your father, when
she so unexpectedly came upon you this morning. You must know that I was
expecting to see ' a dreamy-eyed youth, chock-full of poetry,' for so
Sir Howard Cressingham described you when I called in the hope of
finding you at Chesterdoge."

Harry smiled. "I feel I have only grown up since I left England last
June, and I'm sure I've changed greatly since I last saw Sir Howard.
Indeed, I can't tell you how differently I've looked at Life and Art
during the last ten days. My friend, Dottor Crapezzo, appeared at the
very moment I needed help, both of body and mind, for I may tell you
that the obscurity surrounding my birth and the fear almost amounting to
certainty that I was a bastard had preyed unduly on my health and
spirits. Then --"

"Yes?" interrogatively from the Baronet, as the young man paused. "Then
I most happily fell into the hands of Dottor Crapezzo, and in some
silent, inexplicable way, he led me to accept life as a boon from
whatever source it may have reached me."

"Ah," returned the other, " he must be a bigger, finer man than even his
pamphlet proves him to be. I hope I may soon meet him again, if only to
thank him for all he has done for you."

"And then, just as I had made up my mind to worry no longer," continued
Harry, " you appear and tell me I am the son of a Lord, and the grandson
of an Earl."

"Ah, that is the way of life--full of surprises, a very fairy-land, joy
and sorrow competing with each other, unseen forces combining in secret
to produce unlocked for results. Romance shouldering the trite and the
trivial, depth appearing where all seemed shallow, life, in short,
instead of monotony. But now, for your questions, dear fellow, for time
is hastening and the rate at which the night-mail travels will not
permit of much conversation, even if we are able to secure a coupe to
ourselves. I want you to have a clear idea of your position, and the
story of your long deprivation of it, before you see your Grandfather.
So fire away!"

"If I might read the poor nun's confession," ventured Harry, " wouldn't
that save a good deal of talking?"

"Perhaps that would be the best thing," assented the baronet, slowly, as
he drew from the breast-pocket of his coat a somewhat bulky packet. "I
fear the contents will pain you; still, sooner or later, you must know
details I would have gladly spared you for your father's memory. This is
only the rough draft I took down in shorthand--you read shorthand?" And
on Harry replying in the affirmative, the elder man continued:

"These are the Sor Therese's own words, on the right-hand pages. You see
she has signed every one, and Settamanare's name appears as the witness
to her signature. I sincerely trust the Madre Prelata will give her a
penance to fit her crime," he concluded vindictively. "But surely she
has redeemed whatever sin she committed by this morning's act of
restitution?" said Harry, as he took the document from the other.

"Bah! Waste no pity on her, I beg," was the sharp rejoinder. "A woman
who could ruthlessly abandon her own child, a woman who for years played
fast and loose with any man who took her passing fancy, a woman who at
length tired of the life she was leading, and learning, accidentally of
your father's secret marriage with your good and beautiful mother, stole
her marriage certificate as well as that of your birth and retained them
for over twenty years--isn't worthy of pity, much less of consideration.
Of course, she didn't guess when she stole them that your father would
meet his death before he could acknowledge his marriage or that your
mother would die without being able to prove it. But she carried her
revenge beyond the grave and only her chance encounter with you this
morning and my presence here caused her to break her long guilty
silence."

Mainwaring who, during the foregoing speech, had been pacing the room,
came to a standstill before Harry, saying in quieter tones:

"And you'll agree with me when you've gone through this document. I
needn't say take every care of it and also of the certificates, which
will have to be verified from the originals."

Alone, Harry first examined the document wherein was set forth that his
birth took place at Nanfans, a little town on the west coast of Normandy
more than twenty years ago. That he was the first-born child of Henry
Brudenham Marston, only son of Henry Makepeace Marston, Earl of
Brudenham, England, and Patricia, daughter of Francis Bourke, M.A.,
Oxon., Clerk in Holy Orders, and Camilla, his wife, of Whitchurch, Co.
Dublin. The marriage certificate testified to the marriage of the said
parties in the same little town ten months previous to the birth of
their son, by the English clergyman who had added to his signature the
words "Chaplain of the English Church, pro tem."

Greatly moved, Harry proceeded to examine the " confession," which
consisted of answers to questions Sir Edward Mainwaring had put to the
wretched woman. A frequent exclamation passed his lips, at times his
teeth were clenched, but he did not pause in the reading till he had
reached the last word of the document. Briefly, he learnt that Marquetti
on hearing through a former lady's maid that a lady calling herself Mrs
Henry Marston had arrived with a young baby at Chesterdoge and was
occupying comparatively humble rooms there, had hurried from town
determined to see, as she supposed, the latest mistress of her former
lover, for the latter, she understood, was absent.

By giving the name of Marston, she had been admitted to the bedside of
the young mother whose nurse had left her at Dover in order to return to
Nanfans, where she was due at another expected accouchement. Mrs, or
rather, Lady Henry Marston, had been a mother nearly five weeks and was
sure that she and the young English nurse-girl engaged by her landlady
could manage baby quite well till her husband arrived.

"Why, and when had he left his wife?" She had insisted on his leaving
for Switzerland on the day she left Nanfans, to arrange that the
illegitimate child of Lord Henry and the Marquetti should be educated
and provided for in future by strangers, or rather by others than those
to whom his upbringing had hitherto been entrusted by his father. She
was determined, it appeared, that in the future this child and her own
son, born in wedlock, should not come in contact with each other, or any
shadow of claim be put forward by either himself or his mother that
might jeopardise the legal heir's happiness or position. Lord Henry
would join her within the next few days; only that morning she had
received a few lines telling her he was to be at Chamounix that day but
that his business there would not detain him more than forty - eight
hours. She had already despatched a short letter addressed to him at the
Hotel Splendide there.

"Did she know who you were?" was another of the baronet's questions.
"Not till I was in her room. Yes, she was no doubt excited when she
discovered who I was, but she was ill before I arrived, indeed her
landlady said she feared an attack of puerpural fever."

To Harry's mind this fact made the woman's subsequent conduct nothing
short of diabolic. For when Marquetti found herself in the presence of
no " mistress," but the lawful wife of Lord Henry Marston she confessed
she had been seized by mad jealousy which was none the less terrible in
that she made every effort to conceal it from her victim. And it was in
a pleasant, bantering manner that she twitted the young mother as to the
legality of her marriage, provoking the proud retort that the
certificates in a dressing-case beside her, and which she produced for
inspection, would speak for themselves.

When Harry came to this part of the confession his blood boiled within
him, and had the Sor Therese been present it would have been difficult,
well-nigh impossible for her to have survived his anger. For she,
determined to possess herself of the certificates, conceived the
diabolical plan of depriving the now greatly excited wife of them by
rendering her unconscious for a time. On pretence of cooling her heated
brow she emptied a small phial of chloroform upon her handkerchief and
applied it to forehead and nostrils with endearing expressions.

Fortunately the baby was with the young nurse, taking the air, or he
might have been killed outright. When her victim was sleeping soundly
she had possessed herself of the certificates and, leaving the room in
leisurely fashion, summoned the landlady. "You permitted the woman to
suppose that Lord Henry -- ?"

"His name was never mentioned," interrupted the nun. "Yes, I did allow
her to think that the Irish woman was no wife but a light o' love of my
husband's, whom I was going off at once to meet at Chamounix where our
boy of nine was being educated. I knew from the mother that she had not
said much to the landlady except that she expected her husband, ' Mr '
Marston, by the end of the week."

"And you took train at once for Switzerland? How did Lord Henry receive
you?"

"He was furious when he heard that I had seen his wife. I, too, was
furious when he would tell me nothing about my boy--but I succeeded in
getting a place in the diligence by which he was determined to travel
and which left for Martigny two hours after I reached Chamounix. I knew
no more until two days later when I recovered consciousness in a
second-rate inn at the foot of the Tete Noire."

Harry remained almost motionless for some time; there were so many, many
links missing in the hideous story, links which he hoped Sir Edward or
Aunt Judith might supply. How strange the course of events which had
deprived him of his birthright for so many years, and the almost
stranger circumstances by which it had been at last restored to him!
"Yes!" he at length exclaimed aloud, as he rose and paced the room. "Sir
Edward was right, for her treatment of my mother and her own child no
punishment could be adequate."

Unnatural woman! How many lives had she not spoiled? His mother's death
hastened if not entirely caused by the excitement induced intentionally
to wound and upset her, to say nothing of the effects of the chloroform.
What had become of the boy whom the young wife with her own baby to
rejoice in, could yet think of and desire her husband to make provision
for?

Then the strong likeness between the wretched woman and his newly-found
friend, Dottor Crapezzo, recurred to his mind with such intensity as to
cause Marston to smite his forehead as the question forced itself upon
him-- "Is not Crapezzo her son--her son? Yes--and my brother--my
half-brother?" The thought that he was so closely related to one who had
so recently become so strangely dear to him filled his whole being with
profound emotion, the joy of which was tempered by the certainty that he
would never be able to share this knowledge with anyone, least of all
with Crapezzo himself. For Harry now entertained no slightest doubt as
to the parentage of the Italian. The facial likeness between the nun and
the dottore, the similiarity of voice, the musical talent of each, and
the fact that the Sor Therese had described the abandoned child as the
sole offspring of her many amours, the fact, too, that Crapezzo made the
rearing and training of children matters of supreme importance seemed to
Harry another strong link in the chain of identity.

Yet how could he give that loved friend the shadow of a hint of his
illegitimacy or tell him of the existenceof a mother so callous, so
brutal? Their common father had at least done a father's part to the
boy, and Harry felt thankful as he recalled that almost the last act of
their father had been one of beneficence to the little outcast. Yes, he
had been well educated and now was an acknowledged savant, yet living so
simply, so unostentatiously, in that little Italian village.

"Caro Crapezzo!" murmured Harry.

Oh, it was nothing short of miraculous that those two sons of the same
father should have met for the first time after twenty years in a
foreign land, and, the relationship all unguessed, should have been
attracted so strongly to one another, and have cemented a friendship
which Harry knew would never be dissolved. And Crapezzo all those years,
probably ignorant of his parentage but knowing himself a bastard, had
gone on courageously, steadily, towards a given and honourable end,
while he, Harry, fearing himself the bastard born but born in wedlock,
and with an art in which he should have found consolation for any real
or supposed trouble had " muled and puled " in discontent.

These musings were broken in upon and dispersed by the entrance of the
baronet who exclaimed, "I came upon Bristow outside the post-office and
he's as pleased as Punch to be going back to England. I've got our
tickets for the night-mail and he's packing our togs, so we shall have
no further bother. Well, what do you think now of the Sor Therese?" he
concluded, as he seated himself and placed the packet of papers Harry
returned to him in his vest pocket. "I think with you that she deserves
neither pity nor consideration, but she will, no doubt, have a heavy
penance imposed by the Madre." To himself he said, "Crapezzo's mother
shall not be publicly humiliated." Then sitting down he continued,
"There is so much in her story that needs explaining before I can follow
it understandingly. You see I haven't heard yet why my birth and
parentage were not made public on my father's death."

"Of course," returned Mainwaring, " you knew nothing of these matters
from your Aunt Judith. Well, we've half-an-hour or so before we leave
for Milan, and I'll tell you all I heard from her and why I ever went to
her." The baronet then told his interested listener of the receipt by
the Earl of the Italian ex-priest's letter, of his own visit to Mrs
Bishop, whom he discovered to be the sister of Miss Patricia Bourke, the
lady he had known when she was governess to the little sister of the
vicar of Monthurst. "He, the vicar," remarked Mainwaring, " is like
yourself, a grandson of the Earl of Brudenham, and had your identity not
been discovered would succeed to the title and estates."

"Is that really so?" exclaimed Marston in amazement.

It seemed incredible that a young fellow whose education had been the
gift of a charitable stranger should supplant the vicar of the parish in
which a year of his boyhood had been spent. He found it intensely good,
delightful, to hear of his bright, beautiful and clever young mother
from one who had actually known and admired her in those far-off days.
But it was difficult, until he had heard the further machinations of
Marquetti, for him to understand why Aunt Judith had not insisted upon
having her sister's name cleared and his parentage established beyond
dispute when she arrived from Ireland. He could not ask Sir Edward
enough questions to satisfy his longing to hear and know everything that
had transpired, but at length Bristow's knock was heard followed by his
voice announcing that dinner would be served in ten minutes. An hour
later they entered the Paris express, and reached Brudenham Castle at
midnight of the following day.

CHAPTER XXVIII

The thoughts that come to us have more value than those we get by
seeking. Joubert.

WHILE Harry, all unguessed by Crapezzo, was speeding towards England,
the Dottore, pipe in mouth, sat by his wood-fire reading with interest
and amusement a letter, bearing the post-mark of a Norwegian port,
headed "S. Yacht Mercurius," and signed "Harold Bevingham." As he read,
he had no difficulty in recalling the writer, the jocular man and
story-teller-in-particular of the Monthurst Vicarage dining party last
June. It appeared that Bevingham, with his wife and her lady friend, Mrs
Mitchell, Lady Victoria Cressingham, Miss Barton, and Sir Herbert
Twickenham were nearing the close of a delightful cruise in the
Norwegian fiords in a private yacht lent by the latter.

After referring to the meeting at Monthurst, the writer proceeded: "We
have just finished reading your pamphlet on the Imaginative Faculty and
my wife has bidden me write and tell you how much she has enjoyed it. I
also, but like our Hurstwick Landor ' I meddle not with infinity,' and
these big questions you appear to handle so easily I prefer to leave
untouched. All the same, I've enjoyed the pamphlet enormously because it
is full of good stories, many of which I see you are sporting enough to
tell against yourself, or rather against your order, fraternity or
profession.

"In the town where my uncle was born there were thirty-nine medical men,
who were spoken of en bloc as ' the forty thieves save one.' I quite
agree that a medical man as often ' suggests " a complaint to his
patients as he suggests a cure, but there are few of the profession who
would own it.

"Accept our hearty invitation to spend Christmas and see the New Year in
at Bevingham. Miss Barton, too, wants to see you, and Mrs Mitchell, too.
Do, do, do come! You will say impudence is not the monopoly of doctors.
I agree, and am always, Faithfully yours, HAROLD BEVINGHAM.

"P.S. - That was a capital story of the Baron's son who thought himself
a cock and jumped on the table every few minutes with a shrill '
Cock-a-doodle-do! ' My word, I laughed till my sides ached and I promise
myself some prime fun in repeating it when we're once more in civilised
parts. Good for father and son that anti-suggestion cured the chap. Now,
don't forget Christmas Day falls on the 25th of December this year, and
we shall look for you all the previous day and keep you over the New
Year."

Crapezzo held the letter a few moments as he considered the possibility
of running over to England and Bevingham, as the jocular squire desired.
His face grew more and more thoughtful as he recalled the pleasant
Monthurst dinnerparty and his beautiful hostess, Beatrice Brinsfield,
the only woman to whom he had ever been able to apply the word Madonna.
Every feature of that noble face was perfect and the aura, the
atmosphere, that she unconsciously evolved, silently, speakingly
witnessed to the purity, nobility and sweetness of the hidden, the
invisible, indwelling life of the soul.

To be in daily contract with such a nature would be bliss unspeakable,
thought Crapezzo, and he recalled the Vicar of Wakefield's remark to his
daughters:

"Oh, my children, if you could but learn to commune with your own hearts
and know what noble company you can make them, you would little regard
the elegance and splendour of the worthless."

Did her husband, the man whose effigy was burnt in Chesterdoge on the
closing day of the Medical Congress, value at its true worth that lovely
nature?

From hints dropped by his host, Dr. Mallam, coupled with the effigy
burning and the vicar's absence from the dinner - party, Crapezzo judged
the reverend gentleman to be a zealous psychist, and he wondered for a
moment how husband and wife would regard his pamplet on the Imaginative
Faculty.

That the religious and scientific world were divided in their opinions
of it every post since its publication gave ample proof. Many writers
were appreciative, some even laudatory, more were hostile, and still
more frankly denunciatory. To be taunted and shrieked at as a subverter
of religion, a destroyer instead of a builder, a robber who would even
steal from the dying the cup of consolation and uplifting in his last
dread hour made him realise keenly the enormous difficulty of rousing
men to regard with ordinary fairness any view-point but that sanctified
to them by age - long possession.

"Ah, well!" he murmured, as he consigned a particularly vitriolic
missive from a " spiritualist " to the flames, "they will see things
differently in a few years' time. Meanwhile it is something to have
stirred men to consider their priceless heritage in the living spirit
within the living body."

"Ah! this is good!" he exclaimed, in another voice as he opened the last
of the batch, a letter bearing the impress of an English coronet and the
heading "Brudenham Castle, England." It ran: "Dear Sir,

The Earl of Brudenham desires me to present his compliments and
congratulations to you on the production of your pamphlet on the
Imaginative Faculty which he has read with profound interest and intense
appreciation. He bids me say that, convinced as he is that if and when
the youth of both sexes realise that they carry within themselves
mystic, potent powers which if rightly exercised will secure for them
health, happiness and holiness, our sick blase world will pulse with new
life and near its golden age. His lordship also bids me say it having
come to his knowledge that you have established in your own
neighbourhood, or are desirous to do so, a school or schools for the
instruction of youth in this knowledge, he begs you to accept the
enclosed cheque for Gs. 500 in furtherance of that worthy object. He
would much like to see a similar school started in Chesterdoge, and
would esteem it a great favour if you can arrange to spend the first
week of the New Year with him and discuss plans, etc., for it. He, many
years ago, had the privilege of listening to your illustrious
countryman, Giuseppe Mazzini and by him (his life as well as his
teachings) was convinced, and is now more convinced than ever, that the
idealist is mankind's best friend, especially when (as was the case with
him) the idealist translates into action the spiritual vision he has
discerned and disclosed. His lordship finds much in your pamphlet in
harmony with Mazzini's religious outlook, and is in complete agreement
with him as to the necessity of lighting ' Psyche's Lamp ' in the breast
of the young, not with the object of discovering sins, but of becoming
acquainted with the wonderful powers with which a beneficent Creator has
endowed them. The Earl hopes you will not disappoint him of a visit as
he greatly desires to see something in the nature of a school for the
study of the ' Unseen yet knowable ' established in Chesterdoge before
his death. He has already ordered 500 copies of your pamphlet for free
distribution and desires to remain, Yours with profound respect,
(Signed) BKUDENHAM. Per J. G.

"Brudenham?" murmured Crapezzo; " where and when did I hear that name?"
Gradually memory recalled the fine bearing and handsome features of an
elderly nobleman, one of many visitors one Speech Day at Marlboro', when
he was a raw youth of seventeen and shortly expecting to leave for
medical instruction in Rome. This distinguished personage had called the
young fellow to him at the close of the ceremonial, and after
congratulating him on his Latin verses and the delivery of them had
asked if his parents were present. "I've been told I'm an orphan," was
Crapezzo's reply. A few more questions, followed by a little good advice
and a big tip, had closed the interview, but the youth had taken care to
find out his patron's name, and though, in the course of years the
incident gave place in his memory to more important ones, he was able to
recall it quickly and with renewed pleasure. Indeed, he could not deny
himself the satisfaction of referring to it in the letter of
acknowledgment and thanks he despatched a few hours later. He would,
though, have been surprised to learn that the interest he imagined had
been evoked by the perfection of his Latin quantities was due to a
resemblance the Earl thought the boy bore to his dead and only son, Lord
Henry Marston, at that age.

"Yes," mused Crapezzo, " it does seem as though I am to visit England
shortly - Mallam's invitation this morning--then Squire Bevingham's--and
now the Earl of Brudenham's, to say nothing of His Majesty's physician
in ordinary, an invite I don't intend to accept. I must see that boy
again before he leaves for Australia," he concluded, as he realised how
greatly he missed, nay, even longed for Harry's presence. For it was
useless to deny that he loved the young sculptor as he had never
permitted himself to love anyone since the death of the priest who had
brought him up from his ninth birthday, and who died on his
twenty-first.

"A good man if ever there was one. Padre Stefano," said Crapezzo, sotto
voce, as he refilled and re-lit his pipe. "If only he could have told me
something definite of my parentage!" His thoughts went back to the
Convent of French Nuns at Viareggio, established for the reception of
babes born out of wedlock and to which he had been carried by unknown
hands soon after his birth. They were very good to him there, he
recalled, especially one of the sisters, long since dead, and he had
cried a great deal when an Englishman came and took him far away from
the sea to a lovely village above Lago Maggiore where, however, he soon
learnt to love the good padre there as a father. He was a man then over
forty, but so clever and of such a fine nature that the two soon became
very dear to each other, the boy quickly learning all the elder could
teach him. "I thank God, " murmured Crapezzo, " upon every remembrance
of him, for to his system of education I owe all my happiness, certainly
all that is usually described as ' success in life.' He it is indeed who
is the true author of my pamphlet on the Imaginative Faculty, for it was
a dictum with him that the best foundation for all learning is the
cultivation of the Imagination."

Yes, he Enrico Crapezzo (both Christian and surname conferred on him at
the Convent) had been, he gratefully acknowledged, most singularly blest
in his up-bringing, and would not have exchanged it for anything in the
universe, yet he had naturally made enquiries as to his parentage. And
the good Stefano had not scrupled to tell him on his return from
Marlboro' that he feared even if his parents were then living they had
utterly abandoned him, and that in all probability he was not born in
wedlock.

"But why worry about a matter over which you had no control?" Stefano
had asked. "Think only that you are indebted to some unknown beings for
the priceless gift of life. Enter upon your heritage with joy. One at
least of your parents (for so I judged him) who called upon me giving
the name of Mr Henry Smith (perhaps a false one) said I had been
recommended to him by the Chaplain at the Convent at Viareggio as one
who knew England and the English tongue, and moreover could be trusted
implicitly with the gold the Englishman was empowered, so he said, to
endow the being with, who would superintend your upbringing and see that
your education was carried out on the lines laid down. Namely, that you
should go to Marlboro' soon after you entered your teens, and later
follow up any business or profession for which you might show an
aptitude. ' Make him a good man,' the Englishman had said, with
something of entreaty in his voice, when a few days later he brought you
to me, together with several Bank of England notes for £1,000 which, he
said, would not be too many to meet the large fees at the English
school--the address and terms of which he gave me. No, he would not have
any agreement drawn up and signed; he evidently wished that all
connection should be broken off--perhaps he was about to marry. I know
nothing more and didn't enquire. The bank notes were first used when you
went to Marlboro', and there is now only one left--of which I give you
the half--£500--to take with you to Rome, but I hope you will not spend it
all."

"Would he were alive to-day!" was Crapezzo's unspoken thought, as he put
together the letters he had decided to reply to and destroyed the rest,
" he would have regarded, perhaps resented, too, the Pope's action in
placing my pamphlet on the Index, as a wilful misunderstanding of its
contents. I only hope it won't make my peasants here lose confidence in
me, or prevent the young ones from attending the school which I still
hope we may start early in the year." Here the Dottore opened a drawer
from whence he took some sheets of foolscap and set himself to read
again and reconsider the typed matter they bore, viz., the rules, the
raison d'etre in fact, of the Foundation which he described as " a
College for the instruction of the youth of both sexes in the things
that matter."

His late guardian had been at one with Mazzini, whom he revered and
loved, in insisting upon the necessity of training the young in all that
pertains to real religion if good citizens were to be made.

A knock at the door interrupted these musings, and the Babba (Padre
Stefano's old housekeeper whom Crapezzo had provided for since the death
of her master) entered with a telegram which proved to be from Harry:
"Leaving for London with Mainwaring to-night. Write you a long letter en
route."

Two evenings later the promised letter arrived and before Crapezzo went
to bed he had replied as follows :

"Warmest congratulations Arrigo mio. Do you know I had the feeling when
you left here that you were nearing a crisis in your life, and now there
will surely be no obstacle to the realisation of your hopes of the Bella
Donna! You may notice since you are again in England that I am unluckily
somewhat in the eye of the public just now, but the fact that the said
eye has discovered I am of ignoble birth will make it unnecessary for me
to give you the spare details I possess on the subject; these
journalists are always so thoroughly well-informed, one can only feel
grateful to them for their well-meaning efforts to provide the public
with an appetising dish even by the excessive use of certain ingredients
of which Truth is not one! Do you know that your new grandfather, the
Earl, tipped me at Marlboro' when I was seventeen? And that he has
actually asked me to spend the first week of the new year with him in
his lordly castle, which will one day be yours, my Lord Henry Marston?
And because you happen to be his grandson and because he is your
grandfather, I am coming Arrigo mio! and to-morrow I shall begin to
count the days till I see you again! It is so lonely without you. Now
write me all your nuove subito! Here is Pindar's prayer for Theron of
Syracuse which seems to fit this new feature in our friendship very
well. ' Be it thine to walk loftily through life and mine to be the
friend of winners in the game! ' Thine, ENRICO CRAPEZZO."

Yet in spite of his joy in Harry's good fortune the young doctor could
not but contrast it with his own at this moment. Hitherto he had
imagined himself immune from any shade of regret on the score of his
unknown parentage, but had never conceived of a day when his
professional work might make that subject of even temporary public
interest. Yet ever since the Chesterdoge meetings of the I.M.C the
journalists of almost every civilised nation had been busy hunting for
those unknown parents, and for any shred of information of his
upbringing and education. His refusal to see interviewers or fill in
replies to their typed questions on these matters served only to annoy
and render the enquirers suspicious. Harry, a private individual, had
squirmed at the possibility of being a bastard and was now the
acknowledged legal heir of one of the oldest English families while he,
Crapezzo, was virtually proclaimed a love-child the world over."

"Am I to show the white feather now--now?" he asked himself, as rallying
his courage he rose and paced the room. "I will not. I will not! Bastard
without doubt, but thank God, I am alive!"

Later he sat down to the piano and presently the discontent which had
disturbed his usual serenity " passed in music out of sight," the sense
of utter loneliness soothed and dissipated by that, perhaps the most
wondrous of " unseen things " man has it in his power to produce.

CHAPTER XXIX

Oh, just beyond the sweetest thoughts that throng This breast, the
thought of thee waits hidden, yet bright, But it must never, never,
never come in sight; I must stop short of thee the whole day long. But
when sleep comes to close each difficult day, When night gives pause to
the long watch I keep And all my bonds I needs must loose apart, Must
doff my will as raiment laid away-- With the first dream that comes with
the first sleep, I run, I run, I am gathered to thy heart. Alice
Meynell,

WHEN Lady Victoria Cressingham found on her return from the Norwegian
fiords on the 10th of October that her husband had made no arrangement
whatever for Marston to study abroad, that he was indeed expecting the
young sculptor to turn up on the 19th, she was extremely angry. Sir
Howard, however, accepted her gibes and scoldings with even more
exasperating equanimity than usual. He had in mind the visit of Sir
Edward Mainwaring, and hoped before long to be able to turn the tables
so thoroughly upon his wife that she would be completely crushed.

"I can't do anything until I see the boy," he objected, " and then, as I
told you before, if he wishes I will get him into some foreign studio,
perhaps Rodin would give him leave to work in his for a few hours
weekly. When we parted last June I told him I should depend on his being
here on the 19th, and he'll arrive sometime that day; certainly not an
hour before."

"Ah, well, I shall take Isobel to Paris at once; if we can't get off
before, we shall leave here on the morning of the 19th. She's some
ridiculous nonsense in her head or she would never have refused Herbert
Twickenham's splendid offer. You must see that for yourself."

"My dear, I never did understand women and don't suppose I ever shall,"
and Cressingham smiled whimsically. If Isobel liked Harry Marston, well,
that showed she had good taste, he thought.

"Oh, you're no good," returned Victoria petulantly. "You'd see your
sister-in-law go to the dogs and never put out a hand to save her."

"My dear, my dear," and strive as he would, the whimsical smile became
more whimsical than ever and her irate ladyship left him in disgust, but
only to vent her displeasure where she knew from experience it would
wound and sting the recipient.

Barely knocking at her sister's bedroom door, she exclaimed on entering,
"We leave for Paris on Friday morning--Friday the 19th, that is a week
to-morrow."

"But why, Victoria? We are barely home; why need we rush away again?
First it was Italy, then Switzerland, then the Fiords. Oh, I want to
settle down and do some practising."

"Don't think to throw dust in my eyes," said the elder viciously. "You
know the School re-opens on the 19th, and you've been looking forward to
seeing that young fool and beggar, Marston, again. Ha, you may well
blush, and that is why I suppose you would have nothing to say to Sir
Herbert Twickenham?"

"Oh, Victoria, don't say such dreadful things," cried the girl, her face
flushed to crimson beneath its usual ivory pallor. "I'm not wanting to
get married, and surely there is no need for hurry. You know I'm not
twenty yet."

"I've no patience, though, to see you refuse that nice fellow, good
looking, a university man, and a rent-roll of ten thousand, advantages
not to be sniffed at, I can tell you. Have you heard from Harry
Marston?" she continued, with something almost brutal in her tones,
•while her eyes searched the girl's face for some incriminating token.

"I don't think you should ask me such a question, Victoria. I am old
enough to receive letters and to keep up a correspondence with any one I
regard as worthy of my confidence," replied Isobel with more spirit than
she had yet shewn.

"Then you are corresponding with the fellow! I might have known it. He
is no gentleman, and therefore it is not surprising he does not act as
one. But you--I never thought that you would condescend to underhand
methods."

"Really, Victoria, I shall have to ask Howard for my allowance and go
and live elsewhere if you are to make my life a burden as you have done
lately with your ill-founded suspicions."

"Say you don't care a brass farthing for Marston and you shall never
hear his name again," appealed her ladyship with something like
affection in her raised tones.

But Isobel would not be coerced, she said. She only wished to be left
alone and when she wished to marry, she would marry just whomsoever she
chose.

"But, Bell, you know it is only my love for you that makes me so
anxious," pleaded the elder, somewhat ashamed of herself, " and if I
hadn't thought you at least rather foolish about Marston when we were in
Florence, I should never have suspected you of such folly."

"You were so rude to him," returned the girl hotly. "Anybody would have
been sorry to see a clever, well-bred artist treated as you treated Mr
Marston. But, if it's any consolation to you, I don't mind saying that
he has never written to me nor I to him. All the same, you have no right
to question me about my correspondence."

"Well, I'm glad to know you have been more sensible than I feared, and
now let us drop the subject. On the 19th, you and I go to Paris for
three weeks or so; there's ' Parsifal ' and some other big things on at
the Opera House this month; you'll enjoy these, I know. I'm running up
to town the beginning of next week, so if there is anything you want let
me know." And without waiting for a reply her ladyship hurried from the
room, and Isobel, when the retreating footsteps were no longer audible,
locked her door and shut the window.

Secure from further interruption, she threw herself into an easy chair
and at the same time placed on the table beside it a small plaster cast,
hastily concealed by holding it to her side when her sister so
unexpectedly entered the room. Had she seen it? was Isobel's first
thought. But no; had Victoria recognised it as a four-year - old gift
from Harry she would not have failed to make use of it to point and push
home her suspicions.

And those suspicions? Alas! (or ought she not to say "Thank God") they
were even better founded than Victoria had guessed. It seemed to Isobel,
that she must always have loved Harry, though it was not till Victoria
treated him so abominably in Italy that the girl knew her own heart and
at the same time discovered the secret he had imagined so well
concealed--the secret of his love for her.

Even Victoria had read that, and fearing lest Isobel should reciprocate
it, had prematurely broken up the party at Fiesole, trusting to the good
offices of time and a change of scene and company to eradicate any
foolish tendencies on the part of her handsome sister. She had hoped,
indeed, to have Isobel betrothed before the end of the summer, instead
the girl had refused the most eligible parti of the season. October
would soon be over, and Marston was expected on the 19th.

The girl laughed happily as, seated in the easy chair, she looked out
upon the well-kept lawns which formed three broad terraces, below which
a pair of white swans were busy instructing a brood of cygnets how to
behave on the spacious lake, now reflecting sun, sky, and cloud on its
changing surface.

"So I'm to be taken to Paris, out of Harry's way," mused the girl. "I
vow I won't go, though, till I've seen him, even if I have to break my
arm," and she laughed at the alternative she had created.

"Nine more days, only nine more, and he'll be here! How good! Then I
shall speak. Oh, he won't have changed, but if he has I shall know the
moment our eyes meet. But no, his will say ' I love you,' and mine will
answer with a clear echo, ' I love you.' Then I shall make an
opportunity to speak to him with my tongue and tell him that it matters
not one jot to me who his father or mother were--nor what Victoria or the
whole world may say--if-- " (here the girl paused, her cheeks aflame, at
what appeared a daring, an immodest act) "Of course, he can't speak
first, especially after Vic's shameful treatment, yet, why should two
lives be spoilt? Ah, how I longed to answer her back this morning, ' I
love him, I love him, I love him! ' but it would only have made things
worse for both of us, and drawn upon him another avalanche of scorn and
ridicule. In nine days!" she continued, exultation in her voice, " then
Victoria will know all. Perhaps she will throw me over, but Harry will
soon make a fortune with his great talent, and I have enough to keep us
both till then."

"Ah," as she heard the special toot of the Cressingham car; " she's just
off to lunch with the Partingtons. Well, if nothing happens by the 18th
I'll have a cold, or an attack of nerves or an accident. Now I'll get
down and have a good practice before Howard comes in."

So to the drawing-room went Isobel, and prefaced a strenuous hour with
Bach's fugues by singing "The Lute."

"Deep in my heart a lute lay hid, A lute I thought no hand could play
Until I heard you speak to me But yesterday. No love but yours can reach
my heart, No hand but yours can play my lute. When you are gone my
strings lie snapt And I am mute."

Later came lunch with Howard, and by the exercise of tact and an
assumption of interest in the work of the " poor architects " for the
coming term (her brother-in-law's vulnerable point) she learnt that
Marston would not spend more than a day or so in the studio as Victoria
wished him to study abroad. "That means," mused the girl, " that I shall
have to speak sooner than I thought."

"It will come to this," continued Sir Howard moodily; "the School, the
Confraternity, will fall to pieces. I've no ' poor ' fellows waiting to
come in and if Harry is to go, I should have no one to look after raw
pupils. Sim has set up for himself, and Norman and Jakes have gone to
Canada."

"Well, p'rhaps Harry won't leave you," ventured the girl.

"Oh, nonsense, he'll have to go. I've promised Victoria, and if I could
have seen him, there would be no need for him to turn up next week. But
I won't dismiss him in that off-hand fashion," continued the man as
though arguing with himself, " he's always been worth his salt; indeed,
I regard his talent as quite above the average."

"I've often wondered," said Isobel, greatly daring, " why Vic bears him
such a grudge. She really was almost insolent in her rudeness when you
were not in the way at Fiesole."

"Ha!" and suddenly recollecting that his wife's prejudice was connected
with the welfare of the girl opposite to him, Sir Howard regarded her
for a moment with a steady look, which she returned as steadily, almost
questioningly, certainly smilingly.

But the man merely produced his cigarette case, saying, "Come and have a
look at the studio! I've got one or two good casts since you left for
the Fiords."

"You're on my side, and you're a dear," said Isobel, sotto voce, and her
heart almost sang aloud the short refrain that made everything, even
Vic's suspicions, beautiful, "Only nine more days!"

CHAPTER XXX

A soul sometimes falls to pieces under the influence of too violent a
moral shock. Victor Hugo.

Thy will was honest and wholesome, but look well lest this also be
folly--to say, "I'm doing this to strengthen God among men." Know that
there is but this means whereby thou mayest serve God with man--set thine
heart and thy soul to serve man. Hand and Soul.

HIS wife's sudden, and as it proved, serious and lengthy illness, with
all its attendant circumstances, brought the vicar to a condition
verging on collapse. For three days he shut himself up in his study,
only coming out to see or to hear the reports of doctors and nurses,
refusing himself to all visitors, oblivious of all correspondence, and
taking a very small portion of the food brought to him there by Dr.
Mallam's orders. From the first he had been forbidden entrance to his
wife's room, for it was evident that his presence proved too exciting
for her and that she recognised it even when delirious.

"Brain trouble " was the verdict of Mallam and the Chesterdoge
specialist, to which a state of high nervous tension and general organic
depression contributed a grave hindrance, if not menace, to recovery.

Alone in his study, the husband, harrowed by conscience, agonized by
fear, wrestled with his God and his soul, while at frequent intervals
the cry of "Naldo! Naldo!" rang in piteous, imploring accents, through
the now almost empty house, penetrating the study walls and bringing its
occupant to the verge of despair. To him in his abasement it mattered
little that all who heard that cry might reasonably conclude the couple
had not been at one upon some topic. What mattered to him was the fact,
the naked, horrible fact, that by his foul suspicion he had wounded,
probably killed his darling, the light of his eyes. Useless for the
doctors to assure him that the illness had been coming on for some time;
who knew so well as he what mental anguish she had undergone before she
had finally decided it would be impossible for her to aid him in the
work to which he had been so devoted? That letter sent from America,
though couched in tender terms, threatened eternal separation if she
persisted in that decision. Who had made him a judge in matters so high,
so enveloped in mystery?

Oh, those theories of his! Would he had never indulged them! God forbid
they should now be put to this terrible test, that his darling must be
sacrificed in order to prove or to refute them! If only He would hear
and restore her, never again, vowed the wretched man, would he try to
penetrate behind the veil--no longer did he desire certainty of the
spirit's existence when freed from its earthly tabernacle. For from the
moment he had rushed forward to intercept his wife's fall spiritualism
for him had lost all its former savour, and the remembrance of it was as
a pestilential odour which had brought misery and death in its train.

"Why," he incessantly asked himself, " did I not listen to her?" Blind,
wilfully, criminally blind he had been alike to the beauty of her
character and the sterling worth of her objections. Scales seemed to
drop from his eyes as, now seated, now pacing the room, now upon his
knees, his heart aching with the fear of greater sorrow, his soul one
sob of love and poignant regret, he passed in review the thousand and
one tokens of her matchless charms of mind and body.

Had he not from his first sight of her, before he had been so
transcendently blessed as to know himself beloved by her, associated in
his thought of her Rossetti's lines:

"Whose speech Truth knows not from her thought Nor Love her body from
her soul."

And he, actually he, her lover, her husband, the father of her children,
had tampered with her beautiful, her exquisite, personality, entreating
her to do despite to it, in order that his desires might be satified
[sic]. "Oh, let but the light of reason shine again in those loved eyes,
give me the chance to acknowledge my sin and receive her gracious
pardon," and Brinsfield acknowledged he would be blessed far, far beyond
his deserts. "Save, Lord, save I beseech Thee!" was his constant cry.

So distraught was he his reason trembled in the balance--for in " that
colony of God " his soul, the late dominating, all-engrossing influence
had fallen lifeless before the overmastering fear that his darling would
die, struck down by his invisible but hitherto invincible determination.

On the fourth morning after his return the Nurse reported a " slightly
better night, less delirium." But Brinsfield dared not hope, and with
the bulletin in his hand remained for some minutes lost in thought. Then
Bennett knocked and at the same moment opened the study door to inform
his master that Mr Courtlane had called and must see him at once on
business of pressing importance.

Mr Courtlane, a man of sixty, was the solicitor in charge of the
Brinsfield property inherited by the Vicar from his deceased parents,
and Brinsfield, hearing his name, sharply motioned Bennett away, saying
he would see no one. Evidently the man had anticipated his master's
action for, as he stepped back into the corridor, the lawyer himself
entered the study and the door was closed behind him.

"Pardon me!" he exclaimed, as, shocked at the vicar's haggard look, he
advanced to the writing table, his countenance as grave as the tones of
his voice. "Matters are urgent," he continued apologetically, " and as I
could get no response to my letters, nor could Barton, whom I sent over
yesterday, see you, no other course was open to me but to force my
presence upon you, disagreeable as I know it must be at this anxious
time and see that it is!"

For the vicar's attitude made it abundantly clear that he resented
strongly what he evidently regarded as an unwarrantable intrusion on his
privacy. He had at once decided that the Earl must have been suddenly
taken ill, perhaps carried off by an unexpected seizure, and his heart
shrank at the possibility that Bea might never live to become his
Countess. Neither sitting down himself nor asking his visitor to be
seated, he managed to growl out interrogatively, "The old gentleman?"

On hearing that the Earl was in the best of health but very anxious as
to Mrs Brinsfield's condition, the man became furious, telling Courtlane
in no measured terms to be gone and manage himself whatever business he
had brought with him.

"Impossible!" returned the other, shaking his head. "Your wife is
slightly better this morning, and you have every reason to hope if no
relapse occurs that she will get through, therefore there is no valid
reason why you should fail in your duty to her and her children by
closing your ears to matters of vital import to their present and future
interests. The Earl assured me that she must have informed you on her
return from Brudenham on the evening of the 18th -- "

"Good God!" interrupted the other, his hand striking his forehead as
though to recall some fleeting memory. "Surely," he silently reasoned,
"Bea had almost agonised to tell him something she deemed important that
evening, and he would have none of it, roughly forbidding her to speak
on any topic until he should have had his say--and then--then it had been
too late. "No," he replied aloud, now seating himself and waving the
lawyer to a chair opposite, " my wife became ill before supper--a bare
half-hour after her return. She did wish to tell me why the Earl sent
for her, but I felt I had more important matters to discuss and begged
her to defer her news. As I said to her so I say to you--' If the Earl is
well what on earth can have happened?' Has there been a fire at
Wrenton?"

"No, no," returned the other brusquely, as he took from an inner pocket
some folded papers secured by an elastic band. "I wrote you three days
ago -- " he proceeded.

"And I've read no letters since the evening of my return," interrupted
the other.

"Ah! I'm sorry, for my task would then have been accomplished--and
believe me I deplore the fact that --"

"Have done with rigmarole," said Brinsfield curtly. "I've had the shock
of my life; nothing you can tell me can affect me more than water on a
duck's back. So out with this startling information."

"Briefly then it is this. Your late uncle, Lord Henry Marston, made a
secret marriage: his son, now close upon twenty-one, has been
discovered. Here are the copies of the marriage and birth certificates,"
continued the lawyer, placing the now unfolded papers from his pocket
upon the writing-table, " both of which have been compared with the
originals. The young man is now at Brudenham Castle, accepted by the
Earl as his grandson and heir, and I regret to say the case appears
incontestable, so that I cannot advise you to do otherwise than accept
the position. But the matter will be brought before the Lords to-morrow,
and it is essential that your course of action should be then stated.
Will you fight or resign all claim?"

The vicar had followed with keen interest every word of this surprising
statement, and when he had thoroughly resolved its significance he rose
from his seat and laughed long and loudly. A horrible laugh the lawyer
found it, and he winced as though he had been hit in the eye. Then, to
his intense astonishment, he saw a subtle change pass over the haggard
face--an intimation as it were, from within, of a delightful apprehension
which vanished as quickly as it came, and the vicar, with outstretched
hand, was saying, "Thanks, Mr Courtlane, for coming--the case will not be
contested, and kindly assure the Earl and the new heir that at the
earliest moment I will call and congratulate them. There is nothing more
to be said," for the lawyer had opened his lips, " and," pointing to the
pile of unopened letters as he walked towards the door, "I have my time,
as you see, fully occupied for some time to come."

Courtlane again in the corridor and fearing the vicar had lost his wits
turned for a final word, either of expostulation or sympathy, only to
find the door shut in his face. When his retreating footsteps were no
longer audible Brinsfield softly turned the key in the lock and,
returning to the writing-table, fell on his knees beside it, that look
of rapture, caught for a fleeting moment by Courtlane, again investing
every feature with a more than passing radiance. For the torn, wounded
heart had discerned and discovered to its owner the possibility that the
Almighty was prepared to accept, if even He had not already planned to
do so, the sacrifice of expected wealth and position as his sufficient
punishment, and would spare his darling's life. Tears of joy streamed
from the man's eyes as the precious balm of the suggestion flooded his
soul--Bea would live !

Ten minutes later when, in slippered feet, he stole noiselessly to the
door of the sick room and read the bulletin placed there, his conviction
was confirmed: "Improvement maintained, less restlessness." Back in his
study he silently argued, as he put pen to paper to announce his
immediate resignation of the post of Hon. Sec to the R.R.U.S., "I am
lightly, yes, and rightly punished. God knew all along the secret,
despicable motive that made me urge dear Bea to take up the work. A
Countess indeed!" and the man in his weak state had some difficulty in
preventing a repetition of the cynical laughter which had surprised and
distressed Mr Courtlane.

An hour later Brinsfield "was found asleep upon the study
floor--evidently he had slipped from his chair.

"First time he's closed his eyes since the mistress was took ill,"
murmured Bennett, who, having procured assistance, carried the vicar
unawakened to bed.

Truly " the heart is deceitful above all things " yet " out of it are
also the issues of life " --and Reginald Brinsfield's reason, and
probably life, were doubtless saved by the " possibility," the
suggestion, it had so opportunely evolved.

CHAPTER XXXI

Then, true Pisano, Who long'st, like me, to see thy lord : who long'st,
-- 0, let me 'bate, --but not like me ; --yet long'st, -- But in a fainter
kind: --0, not like me; For mine's beyond beyond. Cymbelline.

And Love he sent to bind The disunited tendrils of that vine Which bears
the wine of life--the human heart. Shelley.

IT was eleven o'clock in the morning of the 18th of October and Isobel
Barton, seated at a table in the music-room of Cressingham Abbey, was
fitting harmonies to a melody she had evolved for a little poem by Rosa
Newmarch which had taken her fancy. An undercurrent of excitement, which
the girl vainly strove to repress, carried her thoughts far from the
weaving of harmonies, which for her indeed was an almost mechanical
exercise.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, had happened, except that Howard had
received a brief postcard two days ago from Harry. He was then at
Possagno--but leaving shortly for Castiglione, he said, and would arrive
in Chesterdoge on the evening of the 19th. Victoria, alas, was as
determined as ever that she and Isobel should be on their way to Paris
by the mid-day train to-morrow so that even if Harry did get in before
he expected there would be no opportunity whatever to make him
understand what the girl would fain have him know. And she could only
tell him her secret were she assured of his feelings towards her. Those
small, light straws of looks and actions which, during the three or four
weeks they had spent together in Fiesole had assuredly been set in
motion only by the breath of love, might no longer be in evidence, and
her heart quailed at the possibility, nay the probability, that Harry
Marston would have since seen and loved another--ay, and a more
responsive being than she had then dared to be.

But she would be unresponsive no longer, if only she might have one more
opportunity to disclose the fire of love at her heart. Forgetting for a
moment the work of harmony-weaving and even the prayer it was intended
for. (" Give me within your heart one little room where I may find a
home ") she found herself saying almost unconsciously as she leaned her
head on her hand--

"He shall fear haply, and be dumb; Then will I lay my cheek To his and
tell about our love Not once abashed or weak."

In twenty-four hours, though, they would be far away from each other if
Vicky's plans were not frustrated. But the girl had already decided to
postpone at least till to-night the breaking of a limb or the
development of the "Flu "; yet any inconvenience, any physical pain
even, she decided, would be as nothing to the mental suffering she would
undergo if she didn't see Harry on his return. She had been living with
that certainty in view for weeks past, and keenly realised that if it
were denied her at the last moment she would be totally unable to play
the hypocrite any longer.

Even to-day it was only by a great effort she could keep bright and hide
the excitement which made her veins tingle and her words almost foolish,
from Vicky's sharp eyes and ears. Her sharp tongue had not been much in
evidence the past few days because, perhaps, she felt so sure of the
success of her plans to carry the girl off in good time to avoid a
meeting. Fortunately her ladyship was spending the day at Bevingham
Priory whither she had gone in the car a quarter of an hour ago--anxious
to hear the latest news of Beatrice Brinsfield and to see " the pigeon
pair " whom Helena had carried off from the cheerless vicarage. Isobel,
she knew, was playing for some charity at an At Home in the afternoon so
she left the Abbey with no misgivings on her account.

And now, the girl having finished her composition and knowing herself to
be alone in the house (Howard had gone out at ten and was due on the
Bench at 11.30) seated herself at the piano and sang the last verse of
it with an abandon she would never have indulged in had she guessed the
proximity of any human being save the servants.

"But, ah, your place of sorrows, dear, The room you enter soon or late,
Give me the key and in the gloom Our love shall conquer fate."

With triumphing melody, wedded to fit harmonies and her own lovely voice
she pronounced the last word, had played the last chord, when she was
startled to find Sir Howard, whom she did not expect till lunch time, at
her elbow. How long might he have been there? But evidently he could
only have just entered for, without any apology and in very
matter-of-fact tones, he said:

"Young Harry is in the library; he got here earlier than he expected,
but will be leaving again after lunch. As you know it is my morning at
the court, but I shall be back as soon as I'm free. Meanwhile will you
look after him? You might take him down to the lake and let him see the
new cygnets and the water-fowl you brought from Norway. The
chrysanthemums, too, are worth looking at, and there are some plums
still on the south wall."

During these astonishing remarks Isobel hid her blushing joy by stooping
to put her MS. book and other music away. She dared scarcely trust her
voice to answer lest it should discover her gladness, for surely if
Howard guessed it he would be reminded of Vicky's dreadful antipathy to
Harry and feel compelled, by a sense of duty, to withdraw the
opportunity he was offering her of seeing him alone. Had Howard the
faintest idea that he was answering a prayer she had made night and
morning for weeks past? that he was giving her in this off-hand fashion
the thing she most longed for in all the world, the opportunity of
letting Harry know he might, if he wished, have her for his wife?

"I'll run up for my hat," she at length forced herself to say, her heart
pulsing so loudly she dared not go straight to the library as she would
have done if only her nerves had been under control. "I'll tell him to
wait on the terrace then," said her brother-in-law, " there's a special
case on this morning and only the Mayor and myself to try it. See you
both at lunch time."

As he went back to the library Isobel walked quickly to her room and
turned the key in the lock. Now that the chance she had scarcely dared
to anticipate had been flung at her as a thing of no importance and with
such suddenness, her thankfulness was blended with a feeling of recoil
against what was without doubt (so she judged) the unmaidenly act she
had for days contemplated and decided to carry out. But there must be no
shrinking now, she told herself and, falling on her knees beside the
bed, the girl begged the blessing of God, ay, and His forgiveness for
the course she intended to take--"Strength, too ! " she pleaded.

Then, rising and forgetting the hat she had ostensibly gone upstairs
for, she ran down and taking a big shady one from the cloak-room, went
out accompanied by her Pom. to meet the young sculptor who, with his
hands behind him, was pacing the terrace. She thought he had grown
taller though not stouter as he turned at the sound of her light step on
the gravel and raising his hat advanced to meet her. He wore the short
velvet coat he had taken to Italy and which became him so well, and
there was something in his face, she noted, as he approached, which
surprised her and suggested too, in some subtle manner that, after all,
it might not be necessary for her to do the unmaidenly thing she had
contemplated. Not that there was anything like assurance in the look or
even in the tones of the voice with which he greeted her. But there was
strength, purposefulness in his whole bearing as he scanned her face,
more anxious to read its message than to convey any from his own.

"Does he care? Does he still care?" was her silent cry as they walked in
the direction of the lake where each knew privacy was to be found in the
spacious, rose-clad arbours standing in sheltered spots on its banks.
And fear clutched at the girl's heart lest all these months she had been
the victim of a vain, ill-founded hope and that he, who was now
infinitely better-looking and " every inch a gentleman," had already
bestowed his affections elsewhere. Howard, she reminded herself, had
said that Harry would be leaving again after lunch. Where could he be
going? Perhaps to Monthurst to see the girl he had once told her of and
whom he doubtless loved more than as a brother.

But while these hopes and fears flung themselves with tiresome frequency
across her mind she herself was talking animatedly, and Harry, judging
her by her manner, feared that though her regard for him was without
doubt sincere, it was impossible she could indulge in any deeper feeling
towards him. Yet he must know, must obtain some indication from her
before lunch--before the girl could hear from an outsider, before he told
her himself, the romantic story of his high birth and long lineage and
the position he longed for her to fill.

He and Mainwaring had reached Brudenham only two mornings ago, and he
had been engaged almost hourly ever since, either with the Earl or the
family lawyers. Now all was satisfactorily settled, for the Hon. and
Rev. Reginald Brinsfield, the heir-apparent, who had been approached and
notified of this sudden change in his prospects, definitely refused to
contest the case. The whole story would be made public this afternoon in
the Lords, unlooked-for evidence in support of it having arrived within
the past two days even from Nanfans and the lady's maid from whom
Marquetti had first heard of the coming of a "Mrs Marston " to
Chesterdoge. So the Earl, who rejoiced greatly in his newly-found
grandson, could not deny his request to run over to Cressingham Abbey to
see the man to whom he owed so much. Happily he missed Lady Victoria,
though narrowly, her car for Bevingham taking the opposite direction to
that by which he had arrived. He was fortunate, too, in finding Sir
Howard in the grounds, where he lost no time in disclosing his position,
and requesting permission with much diffidence to sue for Miss Barton's
hand.

"Oh, Pom mustn't go near the lake!" cried Isobel excitedly. "Come here,
sir, come here! The daddy-swan will be in a rare temper if he catches
sight of him!" she explained, as Pom, fortunately an obedient dog,
returned at her call and was presently deposited in the
chrysanthemum-house, to be called for after the cygnets had been
visited.

All at once Harry realised that the girl was not her usual self, and
seemed to shun his glance, nevertheless hope sang in his breast, his
coming so unexpectedly might have upset her. He, too, found it almost
impossible to be natural, and replied to her random remarks almost at
haphazard. Now they were beside the lake and having fetched from one of
the arbours a box of food dear to the appetite of young swans, Isobel
grudged the precious minutes absorbed in the dispensing of it. At last
that business was over and together the young people went to replace the
box.

In her excitement, Bel judged it must be nearly one, though the
stable-clock had only struck the hour of noon ten minutes since. As they
reached the arbour she felt almost desperate for she had given Harry as
yet no chance of knowing her feelings, and until she did so how was it
possible for him to disclose his own she argued. He would naturally be
more reserved now they were alone together, remembering Vicky's aversion
and hostility.

And though it was quite an ordinary question it was also a personal one
that she put almost breathlessly, and with eyes which looked away over
the lake to the park beyond. "Is it true, Mr Marston, that you will not
be working at the School this term?"

"Yes, it is true," returned Marston, as he sought to draw her gaze upon
himself; "I shall not -- "

"Oh, I am sorry!" came the interruption, accompanied by an unconscious
flash from those deep, violet eyes.

Brief though that glance--few the words--they were all that Harry needed.
The assurance that his presence or absence was a matter of more than
passing interest to this lovely girl who never, to his thought, had
looked more lovely.

He almost lost control of his voice as he said: "May I tell you
something, Miss Barton, something very personal to myself? And please
sit down. It is rather a long story for it is the story of my birth and
parentage and I fear --"

"Oh, but you won't let that matter trouble you!" interrupted the girl
again, and this time she found her voice clear and distinct. She had so
often gone over in her own mind the arguments to be used either with
Harry or Lady Victoria on this topic that she felt herself on safe
ground in bringing them forward. "One can't help one's parents, Mr
Marston," she continued, " and don't you think it is really silly to
value anyone just because they had, or have parents called Lord this or
Lady that, instead of plain Mr and Mrs?"

The girl laughed as she concluded, and with that silvery laugh came
another of those silent, speaking messages from her beautiful eyes. A
moment later the two were locked in each other's arms, their lips
sealing the testimony to the reality of their still unspoken affection.
Blissful moments passed, and then, seated side by side with clasped
hands, Harry told the story, the wondrous story of his birth and the
discovery of his parentage. So fascinating was the recital to both
teller and listener, that they started guiltily to their feet when steps
were heard on the gravel-walk and a moment later a footman appeared and
announced that lunch was served and Sir Howard awaited them.

No need to tell the latter what had happened in his absence ; but he
kissed Isobel and told her she was a lucky girl, while he laughingly
warned Harry that he must expect a bad quarter of an hour on Lady
Victoria's return. Harry wanted to carry Bel off at once to Brudenham to
introduce her to his grandfather, but she said she must play at the
musical At Home at which she had promised to assist. So it was agreed
that Harry should go back to the Castle and tell the Earl what had
happened, then return for Isobel and take her to dine with the old
nobleman and Sir Edward Mainwaring.

It was remarked by more than one of the afternoon party that Miss Barton
had excelled herself. A new note - which one could hardly classify was
evident both in the joyous and the pathetic compositions she gave. "It
was," one virtuoso remarked, " as though a bird broke into song every
now and again, song that would not be denied expression."

She left the At Home early, and found Harry waiting outside for her.
Together they returned to the Abbey, and as they walked up the long
drive, its beech trees all golden in their fading beauty, the
Cressingham car drew up beside them and Lady Victoria, her face dark
with anger, descended and confronted them.

The couple, who were shamelessly holding each other's hands, did not
relinquish them nor start apart, their faces indeed wore a look of
suppressed amusement rather than one of guilt as her ladyship was quick
to notice and resent. Curtly bidding the chauffeur drive home he had
barely re-started the car than she turned upon her sister, ignoring
Marston altogether, and in her most acrid tones enquired: " Are you lost
to all sense of decency that you must conduct your newly-fledged amours
in the open?"

The lovers had anticipated a possible encounter of this nature. Indeed
Isobel had indulged the unholy hope that her sister would come upon them
before she could hear of the great change in Harry's fortune, and she
had earnestly begged the latter not to disclose it. "It will be but a
short, slight retaliation," she had pleaded, and Harry could not deny
this, her first request, though, indeed, he now felt no animosity
towards the woman who had always treated him harshly. He was ready, in
fact, to find excuses for her, as he realised the preciousness of the
girl who had blessed him with her priceless affection. But when she
attacked her young sister with cruel taunts and insinuations of bad
faith, he addressed her in tones and words of such unmistakeable
authority that the lady found herself altogether nonplussed.

What could have happened in those few hours she had spent at Bevingham?
Marston had a roll of music in one hand, so it was clear Bel had been to
the At Home. But the young man's words were terrible.

"Excuse me, Lady Victoria," he said, courteously but firmly, as he drew
Isobel's arm within his and placed his right hand on hers, "Miss Barton
is now my affianced wife and under my protection -- "

"Affianced wife?" and Victoria Cressingham almost screamed the echoed
words. " You shall answer, sir, for your disgraceful behaviour in trying
to influence my foolish sister on the sly, as you have done. You! an
upstart; a creature of my husband's bounty! " Before her ladyship had
delivered the half of her tirade Marston had turned and with Isobel
(whom he motioned to silence) still upon his arm, walked leisurely down
the drive to the accompaniment of such epithets as "Cowards! Fools,
Idiots." He did not pause even as he glanced back and raised his hat
before passing through the lodge-gates into the high road where the
couple were lost to the irate lady's view.

With a final, "I wash my hands of you both!" she hurried on to the Abbey
to engulf Sir Howard in the anger which flooded her whole being and
betrayed its overflow in every feature of her face and gesture of her
limbs. He, however, was not at home, had left word indeed that he should
not be in to dinner, so her ladyship, baulked of this outlet to her
feelings called for Isobel's maid, only to learn that it was her "
evening out." The butler's cross-examination afforded yet another proof,
had one been needed, of her husband's crass folly. The idea of keeping
the fellow to lunch, and how long before Sir Howard returned did Mr
Marston arrive? The butler, however, couldn't or wouldn't say; and the
footman, who knew even more about the matter, was equally reticent. They
weren't going to spoil sport or blab on those two, the men agreed--they
liked to see young people happy.

But when the dinner hour arrived and Isobel was still absent, Victoria
became really anxious. Surely the girl was not so stupid, so insane, as
to risk her good name by remaining out all night. She tried to get in
touch with her husband on the 'phone, but all in vain. Then, at
half-past eight, when almost distracted with anxiety, a message was
brought in by the butler, "Miss Barton was dining at Brudenham and would
be back at 10.30." The mystery deepened, for the old Earl had not
entertained for some years past and Lady Victoria had never dined at the
Castle. However, she would presently know the top and bottom of the
disgraceful, or at any rate, queer affair. In the meantime she took up
the evening paper and read with undisguised astonishment the following
paragraph:

"This afternoon, in the Lords, the petition of the Earl of Brudenham, '
that Henry Marston, nearly twenty-one years of age, be declared his
grandson and heir-at-law to the estates and titles belonging to the said
Earl and devolving with the said Earldom ' created an immense sensation.
It appears that until towards the close of last month the Earl had no
idea that his only son, Lord Henry Marston, who lost his life more than
twenty years ago, had ever been married, while the young man, until a
week ago, knew nothing of his parents whom he had been led to understand
died soon after his birth. The details of this, surely the most romantic
of all ' Romances of the Peerage,' will appear in full in our issue
to-morrow morning, and prove of unbounded interest to our numerous
readers, who are advised to secure an early copy."

As her ladyship reached the end of the paragraph Sir Howard entered the
room. "Oh, you've seen the paper?" he remarked, as he seated himself and
drew out his cigar case.

"Did you know of this before?" came the eager enquiry.

"Certainly, young Harry told me this morning before I left for the
Bench, and begged my permission to ask for Isobel's hand. I knew you
couldn't object to her becoming a Countess and I couldn't object to her
becoming the wife of a straight-forward clever chap like Harry, so I
gave him the chance he wanted, and when I returned at lunch I didn't ask
with what result. But mind you, Bel didn't wait for him to tell her she
would be a Countess. Surely you're pleased, eh? "

"I came upon them in the drive about five o'clock, and I was very rude
to him--they were so silly, walking along holding each other's hands."

"Like you and I did not so very long ago," interpolated Cressingham.

"Yes, but how was I to know what had happened?"

"Did you give them no chance to explain?" said the man. "No, I don't
think I did, and when he told me Bel had engaged herself to him I fear I
lost control of my feelings."

Sir Howard laughed long and boisterously, for he knew from experience
what happened when his wife lost control of her feelings.

"Well, you'll have to make it up to his lordship, eat humble pie and
that sort of thing," and for the life of him the man couldn't help
rejoicing in his wife's discomfiture. Before she could retort the door
was flung open by Isobel who paused at the threshold, her lovely face
aglow with happiness.

"Come in, come in my children," cried Sir Howard, as Harry appeared and
led his sweetheart up the room to Lady Victoria's chair. She rose, and
taking his hand, said, "Can you, will you forgive me. Harry. I don't
deserve any mercy, I know --"

"Oh, that's all forgotten," was the quick response, accompanied by a
warm pressure of the outstretched hand. "I owe you infinitely more than
I can ever repay for so jealously guarding my darling." It was midnight
before the quartet separated, and, of course, the Paris journey was
postponed indefinitely.

CHAPTER XXXII

There is no good of life but love--but love! What else looks good is some
shade flung from love, Love gilds it, gives it worth. Be warned by me
Never you cheat yourself one instant. Love, Give love, ask only love,
and leave the rest. Browning.

NOTHING could exceed the surprise, except the delight of the Earl of
Brudenham, when Harry informed him on his return from Chesterdoge that
he had obtained Sir Howard Cressingham's permission to sue for the hand
of that gentleman's sister-in-law, Miss Isobel Barton, and that she had
accepted him. "Oh, Grandfather, she is adorable, and I'm the very
luckiest man in the whole world! Sometimes I feel that all the happiness
of the last seven days is just the result of some enchantment and that I
shall wake up one dull morning to find myself a poor, penniless sculptor
once more."

"There's no chance of that I think, dear fellow, though I must admit
with you that the events of the past few weeks, as they will doubtless
be narrated in the newspapers to-morrow, will outvie any fairy tale or
romance of fiction."

"But, Grandfather " (the Earl had begged Harry so to address him) " the
most wonderful thing of all, which the newspaper chaps will know nothing
about, is that Isobel should have cared for me at all, and that she gave
herself to me before she knew that I had anything but my love to
bestow."

"Well, you must bring her here as soon as possible that I may thank and
bless her. A love that loves the person we are, and not the possessions
of the person, is the only love worth having, and you are blessed indeed
in having it. But I feel sure you will cherish and prize it at its true
worth. I want now to ask you about that man at Possagno who was so good
to you. I should like very much to give him some tangible proof of my
regard and my gratitude. Is he in comfortable circumstances? Strange to
say I wrote to congratulate him on his paper on the Imaginative Faculty
last week, and this morning comes a letter from him. Here it is. You
will see I actually noticed and, he says, ' tipped ' him one Marlboro'
Speech Day. The fact is, as I well recall, I thought him so like your
father at that age."

"Did you really think so? Oh, Grundfutlicr, I feel I must tell you what
I think about him," said Harry, who had been walking up and down the
Earl's private sitting-room, but now seated himself opposite to him. "I
haven't told a creature, not even Sir Edward, but I feel sure that this
dear friend of mine, this famous Dottor Crapazzo, is indeed my
brother--the son of my father and the Marquetti."

"Can that be possible?" ejaculated the old man. "And what reason have
you for thinking so?"

"Well, for one thing, he and the Sor Therese are very much alike. When I
saw her I was at once impressed with the idea that her face was familiar
and I even told Sir Edward so. He pooh-poohed my suggestion that I must
have seen her, or someone resembling her, in my childhood, and it wasn't
till some hours after the nuns had left that I realised it was Crapezzo
she resembled. And not only in face, in voice too, for both he and she
sing divinely ; he, too, has great musical ability, and, yes," and the
speaker scanned the features of the Earl as he said, " he also is like
you, sir."

"But hasn't he family relations? Didn't he speak to you of them? show
you photographs and so on?"

"No, and I thought that rather singular. Of course I was only three days
with him, but we got to know each other quite well, and I actually told
him, sir (oh, I was a great coward and can find no excuse for such
weakness) I actually told him that I was an outcast, and most probably a
bastard."

"Well, that was an opening for him to confide in you, if he thought or
knew himself to be similarly placed," said the nobleman, his heart sore
to think what the two lads, who were both probably " bone of his bone
and flesh of his flesh," must have suffered mentally and socially.

"He wouldn't confide a thing of that sort," returned Harry confidently.
"No, he told me I was ' a very pretty outcast,' quoted Plato on the
matter, and made me feel I had made a thorough ass of myself. Oh, he's a
man, really and truly a man, and I only hope if he was not born in
wedlock that it "will be proved he is my brother as he will for ever be
my dearest friend." The Earl could not but be touched by the genuine
enthusiasm of the young man as his next words indicated. "If your
conjecture should turn out to be fact you may be sure I shall be the
first to recognise him as my son's son. Already we are friends."

"But do you think," interrupted Harry, " that we ought to broach the
subject to him? It would be horrid for him to know his mother had been
so wicked as to keep back the certificates and try to injure my mother
as she did."

"Yes, but on the other hand, he would never forgive us, I imagine, if we
kept back our suspicions. Besides, he might wish to see the nun, and he
may know himself particulars that would put your father's actions in the
last few days of his life in a better light. Suppose you send him this
evening's paper with the account of the doings in the Lords this
afternoon, and write him at length to-morrow."

"Very well, sir, I will do so, but I told him all about the Marquetti in
the letter I posted at Paris. Now I must be off as I promised to meet
Miss Barton at four."

"Bring her up here as soon as you can. I hope she will excuse my not
calling first upon her. Won't you have the car?"

"No, I'll go on my motor and taxi back. Ah! here is Sir Edward," as the
door opened and Mainwaring entered. "Please tell him the news,
Grandfather." And the young man vanished.

The baronet who had acted so unselfishly all through this business and
had thereby endeared himself greatly to the old nobleman was genuinely
glad to hear of the engagement. "He certainly lost no time," he remarked
laughingly. "Everything is going so swimmingly I might be getting back
to my battlefields."

"You must stay over the wedding," and there was no interrogation in the
Earl's remark.

"Or return for it," was the reply.

"That wouldn't be worth while. Besides I scarcely think you ought to be
on the continent just now--war may break out at any moment they say."

"Oh, they've been saying that for the past two years," was the somewhat
flippant rejoinder. "By-the-bye, I've just received a cable from Mr
Ferney, my Sydney neighbour, who went back in the Redan with his son.
The ship was then at the Cape, the ladies well," continued Mainwaring
now reading from a paper he had taken from his pocket-book, " the
younger one and Jack great friends already, it looks like a case."

"Very good, very good indeed! Harry cabled her last night, so he told me
just now. It seems that before leaving England the girl sent him a
letter definitely breaking what he had looked upon as an engagement. She
very wisely told him she thought they would each find someone they liked
better and that she regarded herself as perfectly free. Moreover, Harry
says that Miss Bishop actually foretold that he would be falling in love
with Miss Barton if the latter went on the trip with the Cressingham
party. And that reminds me," continued the Earl, " we must have the
Cressinghams to dinner as soon as possible. I've only delayed calling
till the official seal secures Harry's position, but as soon as that is
given I shall go and thank Sir Howard for all he did for the boy."

"There's something like poetic justice in the fact of Harry's having
fallen in love with his benefactor's sister-in-law now that he can give
her a title and riches," remarked the baronet as he lit a cigar. "I
never thought Reginald would take this amazing business lying down. I
came upon Courtlane this morning and he told me that Brinsfield never
even enquired the name of his supplanter, nor who Henry married; didn't
even wish to see the marriage or birth certificates."

"The poor chap's heart is too full of the fear of losing what is
infinitely more precious to him than titles or lands. You might 'phone,
Edward, for the latest news of Beatrice."

Five minutes later Mainwaring reported a very slight improvement in the
condition of Beatrice, but Naldo " seriously ill, sudden collapse."

"Dear, dear!" ejaculated the Earl, greatly distressed; "He's had trouble
upon trouble; God grant he pulls through." Then, his thoughts recurring
to Harry's supposition regarding Crapezzo, towards whom, were that
supposition proved correct, he would undoubtedly owe a duty, he
enquired:

"Are we still in touch with the Marquetti, Edward?"

"Of course," returned the other. "I wired Settamanare from Paris to
inform the Madre Prelata that ' the Lords ' might insist upon our
producing the nun for examination, but as Reginald is not opposing the
suit I hope that course will not be necessary."

The Earl said no more on the subject, and shortly afterwards the first
edition of the evening papers arrived, and a little later Harry with his
blushing fiancee.

"We're earlier. Grandfather, than we expected," explained the young
fellow after the introduction was over. "Miss Barton has been playing
for some charity this afternoon, and I begged her to come straight away
to see you."

The old man and the girl were soon fast friends. Then, in the advancing
twilight, Harry took her into the lovely grounds, and they did not
appear again until the gong sounded for dinner.

"Isn't he wonderful, this Grandfather? And, oh! Isobel, to think that
you love me ! I dared not even imagine you could ever do so, and if it
had not been for these amazing ' happenings ' I should never have known
that you did."

The two were in the high-hedged maze, secure from any but aerial
observation and walking with arms about each other's shoulders as Bel
replied:

"Oh, but you would, Harry! Do you know, I had made up my mind to break
my arm or have something the matter so as not to leave the Abbey till I
had seen you!"

"You darling !"

"And then," concluded the girl, her ivory skin aglow, "I should have
told you."

This confession was not to be accepted lightly and some moments passed
before Isobel could explain that Victoria had determined to take her to
France to-morrow morning.

"But now I am no longer under her thumb," she remarked placidly.

"We're such lucky folks, darling, that we can afford to forgive and
forget. And remember you are always to live your own beautiful life. I
shall never try to oppose your wishes."

"But, Harry, my wishes will never be opposed to yours,' exclaimed the
girl in confident tones.

"Ah, we can't tell what may happen in the future, darling, but if we
keep our love pure and sweet, our faith in each other strong, naught can
harm our lives. Listen! there's a bird singing. It isn't often they sing
so late, he must be singing just for you and me."

"How does he know that I love you? Whoever has told him has told him
true, Hark ! Hark ! ' Love on, love ever! ' The little bird knows in
this world of ours That affection oft fades like summer flowers, But
ours will laugh at all frosty powers For we shall love on, love ever!"

"I'm so glad you like poetry, Harry; I do."

"All the best people do; Mazzini has called it ' the angel of strong
thoughts, the power that raises men to sacrifice, stirs a tumult of
ideas within them, puts in their hands a sword, a pen, a dagger.'"

"Yes, and a chisel, too," added Isobel softly. "You won't give up that
work I hope?"

"No, indeed," was the instant response, and then the young fellow
unfolded the story of the frieze that was destined to rival that of the
Parthenon. Naturally, that brought up Crapezzo's name and Harry's warm
tribute for the man, now his greatly loved friend. He said nothing,
however, of the suspicions that haunted him regarding the Italian's
parentage, and the more he thought of the Earl's plan of broaching them
to the Dottore by letter the more he shrank from putting it into
execution. Yet he had promised. He determined, though, to see his
grandfather after breakfast the next morning and discuss the matter
again. But before the morning meal, which he took with Mainwaring, was
over, a wire arrived from Settamanare saying he had been informed by the
Madre Prelata at Castiglione that the Sor Therese was seriously ill and
had been removed from the Convent to a house in the Via della Morte.

"Wire Dottor Crapezzo to go and prescribe for her!" suggested Harry on
the spur of the moment, for it occurred to him that here was an unique
opportunity for mother and son to come face to face; and surely if such
was their actual relationship something would reveal and establish it.
He, however, said nothing of this to Sir Edward, nor even before him,
when shortly after the matter was mooted in the Earl's presence.

"He is a very skilful doctor, you know, and would, I feel sure, make an
effort to do this for you, Grandfather."

So the baronet, who was going into Chesterdoge, carried with him for
transmission the message Harry had put together. "Please go earliest
possible Convent Noble Virgins of Jesus, Castiglione delle Stiviere. Sor
Therese seriously ill. Brudenham and Harry." A wire was also sent to the
Madre Prelata advising her of Crapezzo's visit.

"I told him about the nun's part in stealing and concealing the
certificates in the letter I wrote him in the train, so he will
understand it may be of importance to have further evidence from her,
and there couldn't be a better way of bringing mother and son together,
could there?" said the young man, now alone with his grandfather. "I
couldn't bear the idea of hinting to him of the probable relationship."

"Well, we must have patience, and should they meet and no recognition
follow, I think we shall be justified in letting the matter drop. After
all, it may be only a chance resemblance you noted. Anyway, he will be
over here, I trust, at the New Year. It is strange how greatly I have
felt drawn to him," said the old man musingly.

"Those mighty unseen forces at work," was Harry's unspoken rejoinder.

"But now I want you to see that dear girl, Miss Barton, and ask her to
name the earliest possible date for your marriage. I must see you both
settled here before I die."

"But you'll live, I hope, to be at least a hundred, Grandfather," and
Harry approached and pressed the other's hand. "We have only just met
and you talk of running away!"

"God has been very good in sparing me to see this day, and if I live to
bless your baby-son I shall say my Nunc Dimittis with joy." The young
man, suppressing the emotion that surged through his being at these
words, managed to murmur, "I'll ask Isobel," and left the room.

CHAPTER XXXIII

We can only admit that there are inevitable impulses, antagonisms as
well as affinities, which are willed by the nature of things and that at
certain moments great revivals take place. Why? Because they are in
every man's heart and brain. Massimo d'Azeglio. 1859.

Fear God and take your own part. Isabel Berners.

CRAPEZZO having disposed once for all, so he imagined, of the emotions
evoked by the romantic story of the birth and parentage of the young
sculptor, resolutely turned his thoughts to impersonal matters. He had
indeed only to take up a daily paper to find the complete detachment he
sought. "The imaginative faculty in these days," he mused as on this
21st of October, 1913, he turned from the "Tribuna " to continue his
breakfast, " appears to be ' running amuck ' in every country under the
sun."

That dream, that nonsense, "Fraternity knows no country," uttered by
Lamartine in his enchanting, melodious Marseillaise de la Paix, had been
already translated into action, and the lower classes of Europe, led by
the so-called intellectuals, were obsessed, carried off their feet by
the glamour of a world-embracing Brotherhood--a Brotherhood which would
obliterate race and language, dethrone every monarch and raise democracy
to indisputable and universal dominion. Patriotism was to go by the
board; the lovely, pregnant ideal of one's native land which is the very
breath and life of the peoples it inspires, was being rapidly
superseded, defaced, destroyed for one which, with all its trappings of
altruism, would assuredly bring disaster and destruction to the
followers of those now so enamoured of it.

It was in the midst of these musings that the wire from Brudenham was
brought to Crapezzo. He decided he would go at once to Castiglione, and
telegraph the Earl after his his visit. It was certainly a compliment to
be asked to prescribe for one so closely connected with that family.

Meanwhile he looked up Harry's letter. Yes, this Sor Therese was the nun
who had recognised him in such sensational fashion, and who had stolen
and then worn on her person for twenty years certificates of such
supreme importance to him. It would be interesting to see her and she,
of course, would never guess that he had any knowledge of her past.
After arranging certain necessary matters, he motor-cycled to Bassano
station, where he wired for a taxi to meet the 11.40 train on its
arrival at Peschiera.

During the journey he thought much of the patient he was about to
see--trying to visualise her temperament and the effect upon her
constitution of the shock which her unconscious revelation must have
brought with it. That she had lived a gay life was certain, or she would
not have been the paramour of Harry's father, and that she must have a
cruel nature was equally certain or she would not have abandoned her own
child, or have kept back those certificates after the impulse to possess
herself of them had weakened.

Pondering this it was impossible not to recall the callousness of his
own unknown parents, to wonder whether his mother could have been such a
one as this nun, and then to hope most fervently that the authors of his
being were no longer living.

As the train approached Lake Garda he permitted his senses to revel in
the loveliness of the scene and so oust unpleasant thoughts. With an
artist's eye he followed the

"Lights and shades That marched and countermarched about the hills In
glorious apparition."

He had never been to Castiglione, and the comparatively short time he
spent in the taxi passed agreeably in noting the features of a landscape
which it pleased him to remember only nine days previously his dear "
fratellino " Harry had looked upon.

Arrived at length at the door of Le Nobile Virgine, he had to wait some
minutes before a panel in it was drawn buck disclosing an iron grating
and the eyes of an elderly Oblata.

Evidently he had been expected, for on presenting his card the door was
quickly unbarred and he himself ushered into an ordinary waiting-room.

It was upon a massive inlaid Florentine table that Crapezzo placed his
hat, while he took keen note of his surroundings. What meetings, what
partings, what tragic scenes might have been enacted upon that
Utrecht-velvet covered couch, while the antique clock above it marked
time unnoted by its occupants. A quarter of an hour must have passed,
and the Dottore was growing impatient, when the door opened and the
Madre-Prelata entered, looking very grave and also very handsome in the
dress of her Order.

But she carried herself stiffly, and her greeting had more than a hint
of austerity in it. Motioning her visitor to sit down, she seated
herself in the one arm-chair and surprised him by saying:

"The unfortunate creature you have been deputed to prescribe for is no
longer a member of our community nor an inmate of this Convent."

"Has she then succumbed to her disorder, Reverendissima?"

"No, no, she still lives, but having been found guilty of grossly
deceiving the ministers of Holy Church, and of obtaining entrance into
our Order by false representations, our Rule compelled us to expel her.
But do not, I pray, for one moment imagine that Holy Church would, or
has, cast off the unhappy, the sinful creature; she still has the
ministrations of our Confessor, and her bodily as well as spiritual
needs are amply provided for. As, however, the English lawyers, as we
learn from Settamanare of Milan, have still some hold upon her, and may
even require her presence in England, while ready to acknowledge the
rightfulness of that claim, we could not and will not permit our
peaceful community to be invaded by officers of the law. So, though very
ill and, we believe, truly penitent, we had her conveyed to No. 10 Via
della Morte three days ago. We have just returned from there, having
informed the nurse and doctor in charge of your approaching visit."

"May I trouble you for the name and address of the doctor,
Reverendissima, for I must see him before I see the patient?"

The Madre Prelata raised the pocket-book which, with several keys and
other articles, hung suspended from tier waist, and tearing out a page
upon which she had pencilled something, handed it to Crapezzo who rose
to receive it. "Fenile lives next door to No. 10 which is indeed a kind
of nursing home for his patients, so he will probably be within call."
Then, rising, the lady still unbending, almost frigid, said, "I trust
you may be successful in preserving her life until at least she has made
such reparation as is possible to those she has so greatly injured."

Then, without even a "Pax Vobiscum," scarcely an inclination of the
head, Crapezzo found himself dismissed, and the nun-portress at the door
to expedite his exit. Entering the waiting taxi he was driven rapidly to
Dr. Fenile's residence, puzzled, though not worried, by the Madre
Prelata's attitude, which seemed to him unusual and uncalled tor,
savouring, indeed, of the personal rather than the abstract. And he was
right in that supposition.

On receipt of the wire early that morning she had gone direct to No. 10,
and having ascertained that the Sor Therese was sleeping, had talked
freely, though in low tones, to the sister in charge of the patient,
while the latter had as freely replied.

"This Dottore Crapezzo," said the Madre, " who is he that he should be
imposed upon us? Our good Fenile is clever and has a wide experience in
the treatment of women. I disapprove entirely of interference of this
nature. However we cannot prevent his coming, and he will probably
already have started on his journey."

"Does he come from Milan, Reverendissima?"

"No, no, he is from Possagno, and is said to be extremely clever."

"Possagno?" re-echoed Nurse Agnese, horror discernible in her tones.
"Reverendissima," she continued excitedly, " he is then the heretic
whose book the Holy Father has just placed on the Index. Ahime! to think
of sending such an [sic] one here! They say too, so Dottore Fenile told
me yesterday, that he's just a bastard--no parents behind him, and that
he would rob poor, dying sinners of the Blessed Body and Blood in their
last moments."

"Hush, hush," and a speaking glance was directed towards the bed for the
nurse had unconsciously raised her voice and though the invalid's eyes
were still closed she might at any moment wake up. "You will have to
carry out his orders whatever they are, and on his arrival send at once
for Dr. Fenile to meet him," and, with her hand raised in blessing, the
Madre left the room.

"Bastard and heretic!" exclaimed the nurse aloud as she turned to look
at her sleeping patient, who opened her eyes and echoed the words,
"Bastard and heretic, nurse? Who are you talking of?"

"Someone the Madre was telling me about, nobody you know. But now we
must be tidy and have all in order, for a strange doctor is coming to
see you, Therese. He is said to be a very clever man and may, with the
blessing of Our Lady, make you well again!"

The unfortunate Marquetti (no longer the Sor Therese) sighed. Life had
no longer any charm for her, one only longing filled her thoughts, the
longing to know, to see, to obtain the forgiveness of the child now, if
living, a man of thirty-odd years, whom she had so ruthlessly abandoned.
Reparation had been made to that other child--" the Irishwoman's brat "
as she had so vindictively named the son of her rival--might she not,
therefore, hope even though her days and hours were numbered that a
miracle would achieve itself for her happiness and permit her to leave
the world in peace? She had no love for the Madre Prelata, who had never
known emotions evoked by a passionate, if evanescent affection, and was
therefore incapable of comprehending her outlook. So she had feigned
sleep on her entrance that morning, but had listened with the keenest
attention to every word that had passed during her short stay.

When the word " bastard " fell on her ear hope unaccountably sprang to
renewed life. Here was one so described coming to see and prescribe for
her! Was not the meeting she had so longed for about to take place? As
the possibility presented itself her temperature rapidly rose ; Agnese,
the sister in charge, became alarmed, and was insisting upon an
injection of morphia which the patient strongly exclaimed against when
Crapezzo and Fenile entered the room.

From the latter Crapezzo had already learned that the inflamed condition
of a wound above the heart, which certainly involved blood-poisoning,
was the root-trouble and he would be glad indeed if he were proved
incorrcci in his diagnosis. "These women," he continued, " are so
foolish as to imagine they can please the Almighty and condone a sin by
injuring their bodies. I fear it will take some centuries to disabuse
their minds of such nonsense' propagated so persistently by the '
religious ' of both sexes in the far away past."

On the entry of the doctors, Marquetti fixed her gaze upon the stranger
whom, as she noted gladly, was young and apparently of the age her son
would be were he still alive. Vainly she strove to control her
excitement as she realised that in a few moments she would know for very
truth if she were indeed his mother.

"Ecco! dear lady! I've brought a very clever man to see what he can do
for you," said Fenile, as the two doctors approached the bed. "Allow me
to introduce you to each other--Sister Therese--Dottor Crapezzo,' and he
motioned the latter to take the chair by the bedside, so placed that
patient and medical man could look each other in the face.

Crapezzo knew at once by some occult prescience, the possession only of
the doctor born " not made," that those fine eyes which regarded him so
questioningly, so fixedly, would within a very few days be closed in
death. But with no hint of this in his manner he was in the act of
stretching out his hand to feel her pulse when a knock came at the door
and a request that Fenile would go at once to a fever patient in another
room who refused to be kept in bed. With a muttered apology he hurried
out, and as Nurse Agnese had disappeared on the entrance of the doctors
Crapezzo and Marquetti found themselves alone together.

Possessing himself of her wrist he took out his watch and, occupied in
the business of registering the beat of her pulse, he failed to note
that her gaze was directed to the wrist of the hand which held hers, and
which his shirt-cuff no longer covered. Suddenly she gave a violent
start and barely repressed an exclamation.

"Is the pain then so great?" was the young doctor's natural question,
and his voice was as tender as a mother's.

"It is pain of mind, Signore," was the unexpected response.

"But you have confessed non e vero? And you know that he that confesseth
and forsaketh his sin (and we are all sinners) shall assuredly find
mercy ; forgiveness here and now, as well as at the judgment seat."

"Ah, Signore, I fear not to meet my Maker, or my punishment ; it is my
boy's forgiveness I long for, the boy whom I abandoned and sent away to
strangers. If I could know that he had forgiven me I should then have
nothing left to wish for."

"Is it not possible to find him ?"

"Alas, it is too late to search now, still if I -- " "She broke off
suddenly, and taking Crapezzo's hand in hers and regarding him
steadfastly, she said with impressive gravity :

"Dottore, if my son were living he would be about your age. Pardon ! How
old are you ?"

Strange as the remark undoubtedly was, Crapezzo did not so regard it--he
seemed indeed prepared, almost expectant of it. And it was with an equal
gravity that he replied, "I am thirty-one next month. At least it is
more than thirty years since I was brought a baby of a week old, as I
have often been told, to the Home for unwanted and illegitimate children
at Viareggio."

"Is it then a fact, Signore that you have no parents?" enquired the
other, real or assumed wonder in her tones.

"It is true, Signora," and though Crapezzo manifested no excitement,
either in voice or manner, he was greatly moved in spirit.

"Ah! that is sad for you," remarked Marquetti. "And are you not angry
that your parents abandoned you?" she continued, while her beautiful
eyes searched his.

"But, signora, one of them at least cared for me and provided liberally
for my education. Signora, I have not been neglected. Is it possible,
think you, that I myself may be your own long lost son? " And the
speaker in his turn searched diligently for any sign of the apprehension
of such a possibility in the face, the pallor of which he had noted on
his entrance, now replaced by the hectic flush of excitement.

"You my son? No, that is impossible," lied the woman, whose keen eyes,
searching for it, had already discovered the faint birthmark, a fiddle,
visible on the upper side of the man's wrist as he was registering her
pulse.

"No," she continued in confident tones, "I was at Naples when my child
was born and I know that he was sent to the Orphanage for Babies there,
with the money necessary for his upkeep. My dear young man, how could
you suggest such a possibility? No, no, la vostra Mamma will have been a
good, a beautiful woman," asserted the invalid in tones of such
assurance that her listener was insensibly cheered and relieved. "It
will have been with her," she continued as she still held his hand, "
one of those foolish secret marriages, then comes illness, accident,
death amongst strangers. The husband is absent, he never appears,
perhaps death, too, has called him, and so the poor little bambino is
carried away to the good nuns and grows up like Topsy."

She talked now in low rapid tones and with none of the restlessness the
doctors had witnessed on their entrance. Crapezzo knew that the very
exercise of this control would probably cost her some hours of life, and
he said very gently: "It is most kind of you to suggest such a nice
Mamma for me. I will confess I had quite other ideas of my parents but
from this time forth I shall think that my mother was such an one as you
have pictured for me and I say, ' God bless you for that picture.' You
must not, however, dwell longer on these matters; they are too
exhausting for you," and Crapezzo again took her pulse between his
shapely fingers so like her own.

"It comforts me, though, to talk to you. The priests do not understand:
and I thank God for sending you in these my last hours. I could wish
indeed that you were my dear son, for you are good and true as one can
easily tell by your face and voice, and if my son, if he lives, were
good as you are, I feel sure he would forgive his wicked mother who only
tried to find him when it was too late. Ah, how happily could I die if I
knew he had forgiven me, if I could feel his lips but once upon my
cheek." The woman's tones were dreamy, her eyes veiled, and Crapezzo
could not but admire the statuesque beauty of the face, but he judged it
essential to bring the exciting scene to a close without further delay.
So chiefly on that account he said, "I feel certain he would forgive
were he still living," and then, yielding to a sudden impulse, he
stooped, for he was now standing beside the bed, a restorative in his
hands, and gently kissing the woman said, "All is forgiven thee, mother.
Rest in peace."

The woman, whose maternal instincts awakened so late in life were strong
enough to lead her to risk the consequences of passing out of life with
a lie upon her lips rather than reveal the relationship to this fine man
whom she would otherwise have so gladly owned, trembled violently for a
moment as she felt the impress of those warm lips and then murmured,
"Grazie dottore, I now die in peace."

She had been permitted to see her son in the flesh, to hear his voice in
forgiveness, what more had life to offer? For he must never know, and
now would always keep that picture of his mother which she had sketched
for him, and which was indeed almost an exact description of Patricia
Bourke's romantic story. The birthmark, his age, both details exactly
corresponding with those of her abandoned child were confirmed also by
the ring Crapezzo wore, a single carbuncle set in gold, but without name
or initial. She had insisted it should accompany the unwanted child when
her nurse for a considerable sum of money had consented to deposit him
at the Viareggio Orphanage. The whole conversation had not occupied more
than ten minutes, and when Fenile came back with profuse apologies the
sick woman appeared far more placid than when he had left, while
Crapezzo explained that he had awaited the other's return before
proceeding to an examination of the wound. His diagnosis agreed with
Fenile's--poison from the open wound over the heart had been present in
the system for more than a year, and could not be now counteracted. The
patient was light-headed when the doctors left and Fenile did not combat
Crapezzo's remark that the end was near and might be expected at any
moment.

CHAPTER XXXIV

"0 primavera, gioventu dell' amo ! 0 gioventu primavera della vita !"

IF Harry Marston found it difficult at times to believe that by birth
and legal recognition he was now a peer of the realm and, better still,
the affianced husband of the adorable Isobel Barton, Hetty Bishop
frequently pinched herself, in order to realise, so she told her
stepmother, that she who walked the decks of the Redan with so firm a
step and so light a heart, was even remotely connected with the gloomy,
dreamy Hetty who, three months ago, regarded life as a prison-house from
which she had begged death to release her. Yet she had never known
before she stepped aboard what it was to be truly alive. To have life
throbbing around her in such diverse forms--to watch the sea when it
greeted with tender smile and sparkling gesture the big black house
which, uninvited passed swiftly over its perpetually moving floor, or to
see it rising in fierce wrath at the oncoming of the intruder, was
itself an experience that could not fail by its novelty and beauty to
impress one so susceptible as Hetty, now standing on the threshold of
womanhood.

But it was not life as heard in the throbbing engine, or seen in the
sea, sky, or starry heavens, that had produced the marvellous change in
this unsophisticated girl. For the first time in her life she had come
in contact with a living love--love afire, aglow with tenderness--awake to
her every gesture, responsive to her every mood. Love, which by its own
humility had placed her on a pedestal she could never have aspired to
reach, and yet found it a delightful point of vantage from which to view
the hundred and one manifestations of the social life of the inmates of
this floating hotel--this hive of drones.

How different in every respect was Jack Ferney to her former heart's
idol, Harry Marston! Harry, she recalled, scarcely knew whether she had
a pretty face or not, while Jack was telling her with his eyes, and
sometimes with his voice, that she was his queen, the loveliest girl in
all the world. It was impossible not to contrast the tameness, the
lifelessness, ay, the selfishness of Harry's affection, with this other
love--a live coal, she thought, beside the white ash of a poor little
dying fire of twigs.

And it was this wonderful love that had made the new Hetty, as she
sometimes called herself. It said so plainly without any words: "You
have a lovely mind--please let me see more of it. You are sincere, you
are generous, you have a tender heart." Yes, all those things Jack had
said with his eyes; he had really discovered her to herself--and now that
she knew his estimate of her she was naturally determined, if possible,
to live up to it. And in the sunshine of love, of which she had been so
sadly deprived during childhood and youth, the girl's mind expanded and
grew in beauty day by day.

For Jack Ferney was a fine fellow, and though only twenty-three had long
since determined to wed no fashionable " miss " even were she beautiful
or dowered with a fortune equal to his own. The " pinky white cheeks and
blue eyes," as Mrs Gossall had summed up the girl's looks, had quickly
attracted his attention, and while his father talked to Mrs Bishop, he
undoubtedly made every effort to be agreeable to the younger lady. Had
not Sir Edward Mainwaring asked him and his father to look after these
friends of his?

It was now nearly the end of November, and in another four or five weeks
this delightful trip would be over, yet life would never be other than
delightful, mused the girl as, seated in the state-room where Mrs Bishop
was writing letters, she reminded herself that Jack would be coming to
give her another painting lesson in a quarter of an hour. She who had
never before attempted either to draw or sketch had developed what Jack
called a wonderful sense of colour and eye for beauty of line under his
tuition.

In the midst of these musings a steward entered and handed Mrs Bishop a
cable message just received: "Harry and Miss Barton to marry Jan. 20th.
Both send love in which grandfather and Edward unite."

Already, when at the Cape, they had known that Harry was at the Castle
and the missing certificates with him, and now came this to Hetty, the
most delightful news of all. "Oh, it is good, mother," cried the girl,
her checks flushed with the delicate colour of what Jack declared to be
the shade of budding peach blossom.

Mrs Bishop smiled into the other's eyes as those soft, shapely arms
enfolded her in a loving embrace. "And you will be the next to go that
way, my child," she said as she returned the pressure. "I haven't
promised Jack yet" was the answer, the speaker's face now beyond the
range of her step-mother's eyes, " but to-night -- " and then she
stopped--it surely wasn't necessary to say more.

And that night in a quiet corner of the deck, lit only by the glorious
stars, Hetty plighted her troth, and the happy couple were feted, and
congratulated, petted, and almost spoiled by the rest of the voyagers
from the Captain downwards, until Sydney was reached.

CHAPTER XXXV

I have written always with the perception that there is no life but of
the spirit : that the concrete is really the shadowy. Yet the way to
spiritual life lies in the complete unfolding of the creature. To the
flourishing of the spirit then through the healthy exercise of the
senses. These are simple truisms ; but of such are the borderways of the
path of wisdom. Letters of Geo. Meredith, "I SEE some German Professor
is about to publish a pamphlet on the importance of diet as an aid to
psychic progress."

The speaker was Reginald Brinsneld, the remark addressed to his wife,
Sir Ed. Mainwaring, and Doctor Crapezzo, at the conclusion of breakfast
on the fine loggia of Villa Pineta, Viareggio.

Four months almost to the day had passed since Beatrice fell in the
study at Monthurst, but it was not till she and Naldo reached Viareggio
at the turn of the year that definite advance in strength had been
discernible. There the constant sunshine, the sea and mountain air, the
radium-charged, velvety sands, the presence of their children, and the
absence of all unpleasing associations had worked wonders for them
physically, mentally, and spiritually. Once more they were as lovers,
but lovers who had faced the fear of separation, a fear so terrible that
Naldo's suddenly conceived revolt against any research into the ways of
death continued to exercise its undisputed sway. To such an extreme
indeed had his aversion carried him that he was ready to classify the
so-called revelations of a medium in trance with the babblings of a
dentist's patient under gas. No longer did he crave certainty as to the
future of the departed spirit, content to leave it in the darkness where
it now appeared to him God had designed it should be left. Blessed
darkness, let no man strive to penetrate it!

Though almost every post brought him regrets from one and another with
whom he had sat in self-styled attendance on the departed, entreaties,
too, to resume his official position in the R.R.U.S he vouchsafed no
response. His face was set as a flint against the whole subject, he
would discuss no message, however plain or cryptic, and if he learned
that such and such a scientist or public man had joined the ranks of "
searchers," he merely shrugged his shoulders and thanked God he had left
them for ever.

But while Beatrice rejoiced that her husband had forsworn the seance and
everything connected with his former endeavours to establish communion
with the departed, she herself with returning strength had resolved to
devote the rest of her days to the study of spiritualism in its loftiest
manifestations--the workings of the living spirit within the living body.
For her experience on Slievemore had brought her face to face with the
full significance of the truth she had until then but dimly
apprehended--that Life has its unfathomable secrets, secrets which are
secrets simply and solely because they were and are the product of that
mysterious, intangible, mobile and priceless gift, Life itself. And
Naldo's help must be invoked and secured for this fascinating, this
instructive pursuit ; together they would examine life, the life of the
spirit in all its manifestations, life beneath blue skies and with the
song of birds, life under heaviest burdens, life to explain death, life
to exclude death, life to surmount death--life ! life ! life ! and its
interpretation.

As the two talked together of these high matters it seemed to them
inconceivable they should have hitherto ignored the almost supernatural
subtlety with which the indwelling forces, constituting in their immense
variety the spirit of life, resolve and evolve the concrete, the
visible. For as such they now regarded the remarkable occurences
recorded in almost every biography, not alone those of religious people
as narrated in the Bible and the sacred writings of all creeds, but also
of poets and statesmen, as well as the singular events which had so
suddenly changed their own outlook and the prospects of their children.
Yes, Naldo was at length fain to acknowledge that a reverent research
into the ways of Life was in every respect more satisfying, more
fruitful in its presentation of beauty, of marvel and restfulness than
the constant contemplation of the insoluble enigma of the passing of the
spirit in which he had so long indulged. He could now echo the words of
William Morris, "Now let us be glad for Life liveth!"

Fortunately they were both aware before they had been severally stricken
down by illness of the great change in their position and prospects
brought about by the discovery and acceptance of Harry Marston as heir
to the Brudenham title and property. It was, of course, impossible that
changes so far-reaching should not have been felt profoundly by both
husband and wife, and though Beatrice was too fair-minded to covet that
to which another's greater right had been proved, she did, for a time,
silently regret the loss of title for her son. Brinsneld, however,
continued to regard these deprivations as the price of his wife's life,
and would gladly have paid that price twice over had it involved a
solely personal sacrifice. Indeed it was common talk in England that the
Brinsfields were bearing themselves splendidly, and certain it is that
never before had the Earl liked Naldo so well. At the New Year he had
written congratulating him warmly on his resignation of the presidency
of the R.R.U.S., enclosing at the same time a cheque for Beatrice for
£10,000, while he mentioned that Harry had from the first stoutly
refused to accept any of the Brudenham property not strictly on the
entail.

Now the young people were honeymooning, and not expected back at the
Castle before the coming June. Harry it seemed had a great wish to see
the temples and statues of the old and lately unearthed cities of Ceylon
in the hope that he might discover the secret formulae those Cingalese
sculptors exercised in producing figures still so radiantly alive.
Moreover, surely there or in India he would come across some fitting
subject for his masterpiece, "The Quest of Man for his Maker "? Already
it had been decided it should form the chief decoration of the College
at Chesterdoge which the Earl was building and endowing for the study of
"The true, the abiding Unseen Things," the only things that matter.

An epidemic of influenza in Possagno towards the middle of December had
prevented Crapezzo fulfilling his engagements in England for Christmas
and New Year, but he was at Brudenham the week before the wedding, and
at the Earl's earnest request remained for the following week, when it
was arranged, subject to the Brinsfield's consent, that Mainwaring and
the Italian should visit Viareggio on the return journey and report to
him as to the health of the absentees. The Baronet, who had promised not
to sail for Australia until Harry and his bride were settled at the
Castle, was desirous to verify from the originals in the Florence
Library certain details he had obtained at secondhand for his
forthcoming book on "Italian Battlefields." This was fortunate, as
Crapezzo, delighted at the prospect of seeing Beatrice again, would have
hesitated to intrude upon the convalescents unaccompanied.

The little visit proved a great success, Naldo hailing the unexpected
opportunity of seeing the author of the pamphlet on the Imaginative
Faculty whom he had once denounced as dangerous, but with whose teaching
he and Beatrice found themselves now in almost complete accord; for was
not the Imaginative Faculty but another name for that wonder-worker, the
indwelling spirit? Most anxious, too, were they to hear the exact scope
to be embraced by the syllabus of the new College, and warm was their
praise of the words the Earl and the Italian had arranged should be cut
in high relief above the entrance to the building; "Know ye what manner
of spirit ye are of ? "--so arresting, so suggestive!

And the inscription to run round the walls of every classroom: "0
creature made of clay and light, Thou hast in thy heart the music of the
whole wide world!" could not be bettered. What a message of
encouragement to every student, an assurance indeed that each, by just
evolving the " music in their heart " might so increase the volume of
sound as to overpower and displace " the loud stunning tide of human
care and crime." That, and that only--no outlay either of money or
physical energy--seemed to the Brinsfields all sufficing to redeem the
soul of the world. But of the many good things told them by their
guests, that which undoubtedly gave them both the keenest delight was
the story of the mandate Harry had received in Crapezzo's garden at
Possagno, the commission and subject of his frieze. As they spoke of
this after their guests had retired at a very late hour to bed, their
hearts burned within them and Beatrice exclaimed, "All we have lost is
as nothing in comparision with what we have gained--this broadened
outlook on life and death--this enchanting inheritance of love and
strength and beauty. God grant us grace to train our darlings to
recognise their high endowment."

And it was with the thought of his children and their possible benefit
that Naldo mentioned next morning the pamphlet of the German scientist
on the importance of a specific diet to further the growth of the soul,
the Psyche. Crapezzo hadn't seen the pamphlet, and Mainwaring bluntly
pooh-poohed the idea.

"What's sauce for the goose," he continued, " is, I take it, sauce for
the gander; what is best for the body is best for the soul, eh,
Dottore?"

"It is certainly undeniable," said the Italian, " that when the body is
below par one is more liable to indulge it, and one finds it at such
times less ready to respond to the behests of the soul."

"Exactly," returned the baronet, " the spirit willing but the flesh
weak. The two, to my mind, must rise or sink together--pamper neither and
each will fulfil its office. No prescription can better the old and
well-attested one, ' Be temperate in all things ! ' And there the matter
dropped.

Before Crapezzo left at noon next day he had, as the Earl had requested,
a professional interview with Brinsfield. At its conclusion he strongly
urged him to accept Harry's offer of a six months' cruise in the sailing
yacht the Earl had already dispatched to Naples to await further orders.

"You are not fit for parochial work at present--your will to do would
quickly out-run your strength. I find, too, a slight tendency to
bronchial trouble which a sail ought to dispose of, and your wife would
greatly benefit by the trip. Viareggio is all very well for the winter,
but you both need bracing now."

Mainwaring remained with the Brinsfields a day or two longer, and
seizing an opportunity when he and Naldo were alone, he asked him
point-blank if hw intended to remain in the Church. If he did not the
Earl had commissioned him--the baronet--to offer the post of
Controller-General of the new College to his late heir-apparent.

"When do you expect the building to be finished?"

"Well, the builders have contracted to hand it over to the trustees
complete in every respect except the placing of Harry's entablatures by
July 1st, but it won't be open to students before October."

"I should be very sorry to give up my office of priest, my cure of
souls," said Brinsfield, to whom the latter phrase now conveyed a
significance he had never before his breakdown discovered; " moreover
I've no idea what duties would be required of me as Controller-General.
May I talk the thing over with Bea and my Bishop and decide when we get
back from our cruise?"

So the matter stood at the end of February, 1914. In March the
Brinsfield family went to Naples, where they embarked in the Brudenham
yacht for the West Indies. Later on they sailed to the Cape, arriving
there early in July. At Cape Town they learnt of the imminence of war in
Europe, so Naldo decided to return to England at once. Fortunately wind
and weather favoured them, but they only succeeded in reaching an
English port on August 4th, the very day of the declaration of war.
Naldo, now fully restored to health, at once offered his services as
Chaplain to the regiment of the 10th Hussars, in which Harry had already
obtained a commission.

Crapezzo had long foreseen the advent of war, and not knowing upon which
side his country would fight settled up his affairs at Possagno, and
bringing the old Babba to the Castle, joined the R.M.C., and by the
Earl's influence was attached also to Harry's regiment.

Hetty and Jack Ferney had just completed their honey-moon when the
tidings that England had declared her intention to support France under
Germany's shameless attack fell like a bomb upon their happiness,
dispersing their bright hopes and almost breaking Hetty's heart. For
Jack at once made it clear he should go and do his bit for the
Motherland, and that being so she as strongly declared he should not go
without her. In the end it was decided that they, with Mrs Bishop,
should take the fastest steamer back to England and that Jack should
enrol himself there in a British regiment. After some difficulty cabins
were secured and the three, with a number of young and even elderly men
anxious to do something to help, found themselves again on the high seas
in the middle of August, 1914, while Mainwaring, who had arranged to
leave for Sydney on the return of the Brinsfields from their yachting
trip, now decided to remain at the Castle till the conclusion of the
war.

CHAPTER XXXVI

We must go on ever trying to make the best of life, and, with all its
little worries, life is a blessed thing. Letters of Mary Salter Browne.

A DAY early in June--the June following Armistice Day--Brudenham Park and
gardens, transformed for once into immense assembly rooms, where
artisans jogged elbows with lords and ladies; officers and professional
men exchanged cigarettes with privates whose mothers, on other days,
busy cleansing the linen of aristocrats, on this red-letter day of the
century (and incidentally of their lives) walked and talked with real,
live countesses, and the wives even of Bishops and Deans. A red-letter
day in all sooth! For this was the young Earl of Brudenham's private
celebration of the cessation of war, and also a farewell gathering of
many friends whom demobilisiation had set free to return to their own
lands, some to the continent, some to Canada, some to the Antipodes.

Isobel, Harry and their children, the Cressinhams, Bevinghams, Mrs
Bishop and the Ferneys, Mainwaring, Canon Merehaven and Naldo
Brinsfield's successor. Dr. Mallam, and the merry widow, were objects of
special interest to the villagers from Monthurst and Bevingham who were
present in great force in the Park where the fine elms, oaks, and
beeches afforded grateful shade.

At a given signal a general stampede from beneath them to the open took
place, as the hum of aeroplanes told that one of the
much-looked-forward-to events of the day's programme was to the fore.
Yes, there were three of them circling above, looping the loop, and
lending their essential aid to many other daring risky performances at
the hands of their pilots. "Ay, me!" exclaimed Jemima Gossall half an
hour later, as she sat beside her sometime catspaw, Sarah Ameelyar
Beddoes on the grass, her broad back exposed to the full glare of the
afternoon sun in order to leave her face in shadow and so get the least
trying view of the highflyers. "What a world it is! Who'd ha' thought as
that boy as was at our Monthu'st school be now the h'erl. I allus know'd
there was a summat oncommon to do wi' him, else why Missus Bishop act in
that stan'offish manner to everybody? Ah, there her be--stannin' by her
daughter--see?"

"Ay, an' looking twenty 'ears younger," returned Sarah Ameelyar, " which
her well may if 'tis true what I've heard to-day as she's to be Lady
Edward Mainwaring in a day or two."

"What! Her as I used to call the walkin' stingin' nettle? I won't
believe it!" returned the elder woman excitedly. "Well, some folk be
born wi' a silver spoon in their mouths," she concluded grudgingly,
vindictively.

"Ay, an' some wi' a sting in their tongues," added the cobbler's wife
sotto voce. Aloud she said:

"Look! that's Colonel Jack Ferney with Hetty--he got what they call the
V.C in the war--there! They're both talking to the nuss with their
baby-son--two 'ears old an' a real beauty. They both come and had a chat
wi' me quite affable. Off to 'Stralia agen next week an' very glad to go
; ' no place like home, Mrs Beddoes,' she said."

"Fine talk--a poor pink and white thing she used to be," returned the
other maliciously, for " they Bishopses " had failed to recognise her
portly person, even when ranged close enough to act as foil to
"Ameelyar's " skeleton-like outlines.

"Ah! I don't see anything of that Italian doctor-man as the old h'erl
made so much of," she continued, anxious to change the topic. "An'
that's another myst'ry. He left him £20,000 ! and they say as he an' the
young h'erl be as like as two peas in a pod. Now, what do you make o'
that Sarah Ameelyar? "

"Nought," returned the other brusquely. Jemima's habit of blackening
everybody was beginning to pall on her and she hailed with satisfaction
the approach of her husband and their two boys, each of whom had been
winners at the sports held at the other end of the park. Beddoes seated
himself beside his wife, and as the boys soon wandered off, Jemima asked
if he had come across Mrs Pakenham.

"No, he hadn't," was the brief rejoinder, and Sarah Ameelyar added,
"She's not like to be here ; since she look up with sperrits when Mister
Brinsfield gave over all connection with 'em and begged her to do
likewise the young h'erl don't have nothing to do with her."

"She's a wise woman to stick to the sperrit's," chuckled Beddoes, as he
struck a match to light his pipe. " Bennett, was a-telling me just now
as the sperrits had brought her a whole mint o' money all through the
war--folk comin' to her of all sorts, lords and ladies and chimney
sweeps' wives, wantin' to know whether their sons or their sweet-hearts
or their 'usbands would come back alive, or if they was already dead
would she take a message to or from 'em. Yes, she's made a sight o'
money over this business, and Bennett heard to-day as she's sold the
Manor Housr and is going to live in London."

"My word, what changes for poor Monthu'st ! First the new Vicar an' now
new folk at t' Manor House."

"No, Sarah Ameelyar, not new folk at t' Manor house," corrected the
cobbler. "Dr. Mallam ha' bought it."

"Then 'tis true about him an' the one they calls the merry widow? " --and
Jemima, following her usual bent, proceeded to disparage the latter.

"Well, I'm glad," interrupted Mrs Beddoes, " it'll be nice to have the
doctor so handy, and a bright lady in the place. I misses Missus
Brinsfield awful."

"But where is Mrs Brinsfield?" queried Jemima. "I ain't seen her nor her
husband not once all the dny. They do say as he worked himself a'most to
death in the wnr. Ah, there's Miss Armstrong. Yes, an' she's got the
three children with her. Why, the youngest'ull be going on for four now.
Ha ! -- " and the interjection was pronounced in quite another voice as
Mrs Gossall perceived Sir Edward Mainwaring advancing with Mrs Bishop in
her direction, followed by Dr. Mallam and Mrs Mitchell. At sight of the
man she had so grossly maligned and who, her guilty conscience assured
her, was approaching now to insist upon public recantation of her
slanders, Jemima scrambled to her feet in order to avoid him. But the
slippery grass decided otherwise, and instead of seconding her efforts
brought her suddenly to earth again, but not in the status quo ante! The
shock attending her sudden descent (she struck ground only slightly
below the waist-line) set in motion the inexorable law of balance, and
her lower limbs automatically raising themselves aloft carried the soles
of her shoes uppermost to the openly-expressed mirth of the numerous
spectators of the incident. Mainwaring, satisfied to have seen the old
gossip thus publicly humiliated, skifully [sic] wheeled his companion to
the right and so avoided a vis a pied encounter.

By request of the Government there was no display of fireworks, and
after a sumptous high tea in the open at half-past six, during which
hearty cheers were given for the Earl, his Countess, and their two bonny
boys, the National Anthem was sung, and motor lorries arrived to carry
to their homes the distant village guests. By eight o'clock the park was
practically deserted, though a goodly number of men and women split up
into groups, filled the spacious drawing-rooms, or paced the terrace in
couples--one question agitating everyone, the sudden illness of Naldo
Brinsfield. Was he to prove one of the many who, spared by the German
guns, fell in 1919 swift victims to the influenza scourge? A 'phone
message at noon for Crapezzo to go at once to Wrenton was the first
intimation at Brudenham that he was suffering from anything more serious
than an ordinary cold, and then Harry would have postponed the fete had
postponement been possible. But with the singing of the National Anthem
he had mounted his cycle and rushed to the invalid, for no cheering news
had come through, though it was known that Crapezzo had summoned more
than one London specialist.

"They want no one but Rico " (for so the Italian was now known amongst
the Brudenham set) remarked Helena Bevingham, as she and Victoria
Cressingham paced the large hall in order to be at hand when the next
message arrived.

"He's a born doctor, I know, and the two men got very fond of each other
during the war, didn't they?"

"They're devoted to each other. Poor Bea ! " and Helena sighed. "She'll
be heart-broken if he shouldn't recover."

"He's never really been the same man since her break-down the year
before the war--at least I've always understood that her sudden illness
was a very great shock to his constitution."

"His health was affected before then, I fear," returned Helena, " but
one can't be too thankful that he gave up or lost all interest in
spiritualism when she broke down."

"He seems indeed to have as strong an antipathy to it now as Bea ever
felt. I could never even get him to converse on the subject, could you?"
and Victoria turned to Canon Merehaven, who had rejoined the couple.
"Yes, on one occasion, and one only," was the reply, " and then he
neither affirmed nor denied the possibility of communication between the
living and the dead, but expressed the strongest disapprobation of any
attempt by table-turners or mediums to establish anything of the kind;
he went indeed so far as to characterise the summoning of departed
spirits as an act of cruelty to them."

"Rather a novel view," mused Victoria. "I hope, with all my heart, it
won't be my fate to hover round unregardful relatives when I shall be as
the apostle describes it ' unclothed upon ' " --and the speaker shrugged
her dainty shoulders.

"Brinsfield said, and I agree with him," remarked the Canon, " that the
acceptance of the old idea, the old formula, ' the spirit has returned
to God Who gave it ' is the only thing to rob Death of terror or the
future of apprehension."

At that very moment the telephone bell sounded--Naldo was with God.

There are who hold Life like a precious stone, Hither and thither
turning it to see The rich light play in its mysterious depths: And
other men to whom Life seems a bridge By which they pass to things that
lie beyond ; And others still who count Life but as wine In which they
drink their pledges to their friends. But there are those to whom Life's
dearness lies In that it is the pressure of God's hand in love, And
makes us know ourselves in knowing Him. Phillips Brooks.

THE END

1 * " Where the livid rivers vomit forth from the night of darkness a
limitless gloom." – The late G.L.Browne, translator. 2 * Note even can
Time, father of all, suspend the moving to their end of works, or just
or unjust. But with felicity comes forgetfulness. Yea, all the good
endures and all the joy ; and sorrow sleeps and ceases to canker their
hearts.-- G.L.B. tr. 3 When here 'tis night, there down below for them
burn brightly the sun's rays, and gathered in their orchards, 'mid
fields of purple roses and their luscious golden apples they take their
joys in youthful sports or spur the steed. Some throw the dice or pluck
the lyre, and with them is the flower of all good things in bloom. Ah,
pleasant is the fragrance that is wafted o'er the land from the thousand
perfumes burnt upon the altars of the gods, and far and wide shines out
the sacred flame. - G. L. B.



THE END




This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia