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Castles in the Air:
Marjorie Bowen:
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Language: English
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Castles in the Air


Marjorie Bowen

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Cover based on a computer-generated image

First published in The Windsor Magazine, January 1929

This e-book edition: Project Gutenberg Australia, 2023


The illustrations published with "Castles in the Air" are not in the
public domain and have been omitted from this ebook edition.

"DON'T look at those drawings."

Bearden spoke so sharply that his wife dropped the folio she had just taken from the tall carved bureau in the corner of the spacious office, and turned, alarmed, at the strange tone in that familiar voice.

"Oh, you startled me," she said in confusion; and, stooping, gathered the drawings and replaced them in the portfolio, adding: "Why shouldn't I look at them? I came on them by're late. You said you'd be back half an hour ago. I've been waiting."

John Bearden had again assumed his usual quiet manner.

"Of course," he answered, "there is no reason why you should not look at the drawings. They are old things. I am rather ashamed of them, I suppose, and it startled me a little to see you at that bureau; I can't remember when it was last unlocked. It's a long time ago, anyhow."

"I don't know why I went to it, except—well, chance. Just because I was rather idle and bored, I suppose, waiting here for you. You know, I thought about something for our house, 'Bellflowers.'"

He heard, but he did not respond to this remark, which she tried to make very animated and enthusiastic. Being a most sensitive woman, she said at once:

"Of course you are tired of 'Bellflowers.' I have made too many suggestions and alterations."

"Bellflowers" was the house he was building for her—for them both. Their marriage was commonly called an ideal marriage, and this was to be an ideal house, a material realisation of those castles in the air so romantically and consistently cherished by many, achieved by so few.

Two years they had been employed—she for nearly all her time, he for nearly all his leisure—in this building of "Bellflowers."

He was an architect, famous as well as successful. She was a woman with both money and taste, who lived in a fastidious, elegant world of her own creation; and herself created a fastidious and elegant world for others by the sheer radiance of her presence, which was at once still and lovely, delicate and strong. She had always created a rich world for her husband. They faced each other rather awkwardly in he luxurious room of his own designing, which was part of the office suite which he had in this old and gracious house.

She so seldom came to his office, and now she had come and waited for him, and been moved to look in the bureau which he kept there, for the sake of its beauty of line and the dark, richly orange colour of the ancient lacquer; and he, though he stood so quiet, did not know how to deal with this meeting.

She, too, felt ill at ease, holding the old drawings in the worn green marble portfolio, and she looked at him shyly, wondering why he had been displeased to find her there, why he had made that explanation.

"I've been glancing at your old stuff," she confessed, making an agreeable effort to rid the moment of its awkward strain, "and I liked the drawings very much. Please, John, cannot I still look at them?"

He repeated sullenly:

"They're old stuff, don't bother with them. I did them years ago, before we met."

"Designed for gardens," she said, "designed for houses."

"Of course, I never did anything else, did I?"

"But it looks like the garden and the house," smiled Aurelia Bearden.

Her husband turned away to his desk, and bent over some letters which waited there for him to sign.

"What made you come down here, Aurelia?" he asked, not looking at her. "Couldn't you have waited till this evening about the house?"

"I'm worrying you, I suppose." Her smile was rather faint. She had the presumptuous vanity to believe she could never worry anyone. "Now I have this idea in my head, the house doesn't seem quite right."

"Not even after all the trouble?" he replied as lightly as possible, and yet it seemed a lightness that cost him an effort. "Not quite right yet?"

"Well, perhaps it never will be," she conceded. "I don't know. There is something a little wrong—one does worry, I suppose...too much...and seeing those drawings..." A note of excitement crept into her delicious voice. "I thought I'd found it. These old drawings of yours...who knows, John...?" She put forward her plea very delicately and diffidently. "Perhaps before you were quite successful and famous, there was something—I don't know—something about your work—"

"That's missing now, I suppose." He finished the sentence for her, and finished it perfectly. "Don't tell me that, Aurelia. There is nothing more irritating for a man than to be told that his work has gone off. Success is nothing at all if you feel that you are not doing as well as you did at first."

"Why, of course I know that," she said hurriedly. "But it wasn't at all what I meant to imply—do look at them, John—I expect you have forgotten all about them, and they really are odd—beautiful drawings."

He brought the portfolio to his desk and laid it open before him, and with fine elegant fingers turned over the drawings and sketches in water-colour and in pencil, and the designs on blue paper traced in white and red; formal architectural designs, which all seemed to be intended for one house.

There were studies in water-colour for a garden quidnunc; a pleached walk, a walk that looked dark, haunted with melancholy and had a white, remote statue in the midst of the shadows; a terrace and the interior of a low chamber which looked out on to the moonlight over the wide park.

"Fantasies," remarked John Bearden, "a boy's fancies—nothing in them—not practical."

"But you made your name," she reminded him, "on fantasies like these...."

"Don't remind me of that prize," he smiled rather dryly. "One never gets away from these things; if I hadn't done it on that I should have done it on something else."

"Of course," she conceded, but not with conviction. She wished that he would not so often belittle that extraordinary piece of luck which had made his career when he had won the great prize offered by a very wealthy, eccentric man, for a castle to be built in the Tyrol, crowning a mountain, overhanging a valley.

The prize had been so handsome and so well advertised that architects from all over the world had competed. And it had been John Bearden—then a very young and very obscure man—who had won the glittering trophy of money and fame.

His design, and the manifold drawings that accompanied it, had been so beautiful, so lively and stately, so practical and yet so original, an artist's dream materialised, that he had touched, at once, those ambitious summits that most men deem themselves happy to achieve in old age.

But more than this—it was through the prize drawings that he had met Aurelia. All the designs that had competed had been exhibited in a London gallery, and Aurelia—fine, fastidious, difficult to please—had gone to see them and paused before the winning drawing, not knowing even that it had procured the prize, but fascinated entirely by this house—this palace—rising from garden and woods.

"Why, I dreamt about that place," she had exclaimed at once. "I've been there in dreams." And then she tried to laugh away the commonplace remark. "We've all had that feeling, haven't we?" she added lightly to her companion. But it was not lightly that she gazed at the pictured house which she felt that she knew so well; surely she had once wandered from one room to another, yes, and over the gardens too. "Isn't it extraordinary?" she was forced to murmur. And her companion had told her, rather dryly, that everyone thought it "extraordinary."

For this was the winning drawing, which had brought, not only the prize of several thousands of pounds to the lucky young man who had conceived it, but also a substantial and brilliant future.

"I must meet that young man," mused Aurelia. And she had met him and married him within a few months.

She could never think of him as a stranger—the man who could design that house must have had some entry into her soul long before they had met in the flesh. Hand in hand they had walked through that castle in the air, of that she was convinced. His dream and her dream had been identical—one dream—she was certain. He had been able to put his dream on paper—so to arrange it that it could be reared in stone and brick and marble, among trees and rocks. Her dream had been held in her heart secretly; but they had met because of it—nothing could shake her faith in that...the dream they had shared in spirit so long before they knew of the existence of each other.

He told her that the prize drawings were the result of years of meditation on that particular house or palace which had haunted him, and she said that she also had meditated on such a house and walked through it with him—she was sure...yes, there had always been someone with her in those dreams, though shadowy, impersonal.

This was the sort of marriage that kind people liked to talk about—in every way happy and delightful—both of them so intelligent, so enthusiastic, so keen to enjoy every aspect of life, so gifted, and in their quiet fashion, so handsome to look at—he thin and dark, she slight and fair—both tall and graceful—both so delighted each in the other...and in their odd, mutual fantasy.

That was ten years ago; and if there was a lessening in the lustre of their glittering happiness, it was due to the fact that John Bearden had never accomplished any masterpiece equal to that first one. If he had not begun his career with such a glittering success, he would have been no more than a competent, accomplished architect. Everyone knew this, though no one said it to his face. No one was quite sure whether Aurelia knew it. She always talked of her husband in terms of the most enthusiastic loyalty.

His work was highly paid and highly prized. Perhaps his patrons, confused by the splendour of that first success, never realised how far his subsequent creation had fallen short of that first superb achievement.

Now it was all endeavour—yes, for years it had been endeavour on the part of John Bearden; but that first design had been achievement...

He was hard-working, energetic, accomplished, and he had contrived to hold the place which at one prodigious leap he had attained, but he had done no more than hold it; and when Aurelia had said, "Build me a house, build our castle in the air—you've done it once, do it again—for me," they had between them designed "Bellflowers" and it had not "come out right"—it was not the house of Aurelia's dreams.

She could not talk about this. After ten years it would be childish to talk of dreams. By then, dreams should have been interwoven with reality into one shining texture of life. She never referred to the prize drawings through which they had met. Never till to-day, when she stood with the portfolio of sketches before her on the desk and was so delighted and so entranced to see them that she must speak to him about them, must hope that he would share this delight and entrancement.

"This is the house," she said confidently; her fine face was flushed beneath her plumed and shady hat. "Can't you see it, John? This is our house where we've been together."

"Where we've been together?" he repeated sharply, and his tone made her feel childish.

"You know what I mean," she continued nervously, "the same house—the house you drew for the prize ten years ago. Here are the drafts, they are what I recognised, when I saw them in the exhibition—you know what I mean, John,—don't make me feel foolish."

"Yes, of course I know what you mean," he replied hurriedly; "you see, this is old stuff, just things I did and tossed away—there is nothing in them really."

"But there's everything in them to me," said Aurelia. She added impulsively and injudiciously: "I like them better than anything you've done since."

John Bearden began to walk up and down the wide spacious room.

"That's nonsense," he said, drawing his fine dark brows together in a sharp frown. "It really is, Aurelia; it's childish. After ten years of hard work, of successful work—well, I think I can say, of brilliant work—you get hold of some old sketches that I've hidden away in a bureau and forgotten, and tell me they're better than anything I've done since."

To her surprise, and almost to her horror, he began in a high rather shrill voice to run over all the buildings he had erected since they had been married, almost as if he were justifying himself—theatres, town-halls, private houses, official buildings, bridges—all successful, all praised, all admired—and then, she had to take out these few rough drawings and extol them above them was stupid, it was exasperating, she ought not to be so annoying...

"Why, you never will be satisfied, Aurelia. You'd better give up 'Bellflowers,' you don't like it—I can't please you, so let's stop it, let's buy something—something old that you can turn about to your taste—I can't do what you want, it seems."

Aurelia was silent, her lip quivered, she felt stung to the soul. Of course, she had been childish and stupid—it was above everything foolish to insist on dreams—she ought to have seen that he was tired of the house. The name was futile—"Bellflowers"—she did not know why she had chosen it; it wasn't really the right name, anyhow—the only one she could think of...even after all the teasing effort to get the right name...

And what was the matter with the house? The numerous friends whom she had taken to see it all declared it "perfect." There was something wrong in her, not in the building, and she looked clearly at her husband through eyes that were full of tears, and a sharp unbidden thought came stealing into her mind—"My fault, not his, that our marriage isn't quite a success any more than 'Bellflowers'—any more than his career—there's something wrong...with me."

This was an extraordinary thought to come into Aurelia's mind, for until that moment she had believed herself a completely happy woman. Never to anyone would she have admitted that anything was wrong, either with her marriage or with her husband's work or with the house he was building for her—and now, in a second, this conviction had come to her, that there was something wrong with all three, nothing quite had come up to her expectation—he had never performed the work which she had expected after that first extraordinary success, and he had never been quite the husband that she thought he must be on the strength of that extraordinary dream meeting in a house which they had both known, both conceived, which she had kept in her mind, and he had put on, never quite that perfect lover, that perfect companion.

He was tying up the portfolio now, drawing sharply together the dusty ties, and she felt that the action was somehow brutal, as if he were shutting away the past, a past that was dear to her...but which to him had never been dear.

"Why are you doing that, John?" she asked instinctively. "I really like them, you know—I'm going to have them for my own—to put them in my room—they give me great pleasure."

"No," said John Bearden harshly, "I can't endure that. It's bad enough that you've got that wretched prize drawing there, the most conspicuous thing in the house—and every little sketch I did for it framed."

"Well, why not?" Despite her wish, her voice was sharp and challenging. "Why not, John, if it gives me pleasure—the greatest pleasure I have?"

"After ten years?" he muttered. "Your greatest pleasure?"

"What are years?" asked Aurelia, still on that note of challenge. "We haven't changed."

"No," he admitted dryly, "we haven't changed—you're still living in a dream, and I'm still trying to make that dream come true...or have given it up, perhaps, as I gave it up from the first."

"The dreams are true in themselves," she protested, "and you were dreaming then, when we first met." She took the portfolio from him and opened it again. "How can you be so rough with yourself, even if you've changed, John?" Her beautiful voice was full of tenderness. "Think of yourself then—that poor young man—with so little money and so little hope, sending in the drawings for that great competition, and getting the prize, getting fame and money, and if that's any value, John, getting me, all at once. Haven't you any sympathy with him and that effort?"

"You talk as if it were another person," muttered Bearden. "I don't know what we're talking about. I don't want you to have the sketches—that ought to be enough, Aurelia it's all castles in the air."

"No, no," she protested, "not castles in the air—didn't we meet?—aren't we married?" Her words seemed in some way to unnerve her husband; he made an attempt, awkward for him, for usually he was most even in his demeanour, to change the subject.

"What did you want to ask about 'Bellflowers'?" he asked with an attempt at a smile. "Why did you come up here? Is it so important?" He tried to speak tenderly, but she shrank away as if he had used harsh words.

"Never mind about 'Bellflowers.' It's a silly name, isn't it? That's one thing—I wanted to change that—I don't know why flowers with bells and bells with flowers have always foolishly fascinated me, of course, but somehow—no, it's silly, a pretence, it isn't real."

"And yet you were talking about dreams," he smiled, "and now you complain about something that isn't real. What is it you do want, Aurelia?"

"But dreams are real, the dreams are the one reality," she insisted. "You must see that; but this house isn't a dream, it's an imitation of a dream—I don't know, it's all wrong—those sketches are all right, and you won't let me see them."

"A man doesn't want to go backwards," he protested. "I was only a boy then, almost a child—those were just rough stupid attempts—they're not practical, any of them, wild designs like illustrations to a fairy tale—extravagant, unpractical. I wish you would take more interest in what I am doing now, Aurelia—you never really have, you know."

Talk about pretence—there was pretence there, and now this grievance was out and growing between them like a tangible creature.

She made her protest quickly and ineffectively. "But, of course, I'm interested—of course I care—what a stupid mood we both seem in, just because I admired those old drawings."

He looked obliquely at the shabby worn portfolio, and said, as if to himself, "I ought to have destroyed them years ago, but somehow I never could."

"Why?" asked Aurelia.

He took up the portfolio to the Spanish bureau, and his fingers seemed to shake and be clumsy as he did so, for a small card fell out of the portfolio on to the floor and Aurelia picked it up. It was a worn, cheap and faded photograph of a young man.

"Who is this?" she asked.

John Bearden was carefully returning the portfolio to the bureau in the corner. He looked over his shoulder and said:

"Oh, that—that's poor Carstairs, that young Scotsman I used to share rooms with—you never met him?"

"No," said Aurelia, "I never met him, and I never saw his photograph before. Isn't he like Johnny?"

"Like Johnny?" cried Bearden. "What do you mean, Aurelia?"

Johnny was their little boy, their only child. Her remark seemed most fantastic.

"I don't know," she said. "As soon as I looked at it, I thought—how like Johnny, like Johnny will be at his age—about how old?—nineteen, twenty?"

"About that," agreed Bearden sullenly. "You didn't like him?" she asked, quick to catch his inflection of disinterest.

"Like him? Oh, I don't know, we were great friends—he was a queer sort of fellow, a rather raw Scotsman—he seemed to have no kith or kin, but just his keenness for art and architecture, and he wasn't bad either. You remember he was killed."

"Yes," she answered softly, "I remember you told me that and I didn't care to hear about it. It was really dreadful, wasn't it?"

"Just a street accident, that's all," said John Bearden grimly. "I haven't spoken of it for years. How badly it comes back. I was telephoned go to the hospital. There he was lying all smashed up—just knocked down in the street, hurrying along, with his head full of schemes and plans and hopes—and then—"

"Don't," interrupted Aurelia, "don't!"

"I sat up with him all night," said Bearden, turning towards the bureau. "Yes, all night, hoping that he would be able to speak—they had to give him drugs, you know."

"I'm glad you did that," said Aurelia, still looking at the faded photograph.

"I couldn't have done anything else. I was the only friend he had in London."

"He was competing for the prize, too, for the drawing of the castle of the Tyrol, wasn't he?" said Aurelia. "I seem to remember that."

"Yes, he was competing. He told me to send his drawing in. Just before he died he came out of his trance or stupor—God help us! I don't know whether he knew what he was saying or not, but he seemed to recognise me, and he said: 'The drawing's yours—do what you like with it.'"

"You sent it in, of course?" remarked Aurelia, quickly.

"Of course," answered John Bearden. "Poor fellow, I suppose it wasn't very good—I never noticed it. I don't think anyone else did. It was a very ordinary sort of drawing, I suppose; but he had taken very great pains with it. He lived for it, for months, quite sure that he would get the prize."

"The irony of it," sighed Aurelia. "Poor fellow; but he is like Johnny—do come and look."

She drew the photograph out, and her husband had to turn and look at it.

"The same eyes as Johnny, and the same mouth. He was good-looking, wasn't he?"

She put the photograph down on the desk.

"Well, I'll go now—somehow things have gone wrong this afternoon. I haven't said what I meant to say—I am afraid I've bothered you. I wish you'd let me have the drawings. I think, you know—" She paused, and John Bearden asked:

"What do you think, Aurelia?"

"I think that if I'd looked at them long enough I should have got the name of the house, which isn't 'Bellflowers.'"

"Oh, don't," cried Bearden suddenly, "don't, Aurelia! You don't know what you're saying...I don't know what's happening to us; you had better go home."

"I have disturbed you?" she asked quickly. "You feel bothered—worried?"

"I am all right, Aurelia, but you know it wounds me—what you said about my work..."

"But I didn't say anything about your work; I don't know what you mean. Well, I'll go home. I wish that photograph weren't so like Johnny—it's uncanny, and you've had it hidden away there so long. Oh, John, what was his name?"

"Hilary Carstairs," replied Bearden.

"I have thought of the name of the place. It isn't 'Bellflowers,' of course it's 'Little Pomeroy'—I think that was the name of an apple—there were three apple trees of that kind somewhere in the garden."

"'Little Pomeroy,' that's a stupid name," stammered John Bearden. "You don't think of very good names, Aurelia. I can't imagine a house called 'Little Pomeroy.'"

"No, no," she said. "I suppose I'm foolish; but that seemed to me to be the name. It is stupid, but it's the right name. Well, I'll see you this evening. Good-bye."

She did not move, though she spoke these words of leave-taking, but stood gazing at him. He could do no other than gaze at her. And so they stared at each other, each conscious of something between them, but only he knew what it was.

She was still the tall, graceful woman—not beautiful, but perfect, like a light transfiguring all on which her radiance fell, with whom he had fallen in love in such an ecstasy...ten years ago. Finer, and more melancholy, perhaps, but little changed.

"I'll bring the sketches that you've found," he said with an effort, "when I've just been through them."

And then she left him, but looking back over her shoulder, not, he thought, at him, but at that something which had stood between them and which he knew for what it was, but that she did not and must never know.

When she had gone, John Bearden set up before him on his handsome desk that cheap and faded photograph, and then he went to the bureau and brought out the portfolio which, but a few moments before, he had carefully locked away. Had she seen what was written on them, or had she spoken because of some terrible intuition? He turned over the drawings. No, she could scarcely have seen, for it was written only on the back, and that in a small, neat hand—"Designs for a house to be called 'Pomeroy,' by Hilary Carstairs."

"I ought to have destroyed them with all the others," mused John Bearden to himself. "I wonder why I didn't," and he turned them over one by one—water-colours, pencil drawings, architectural designs for an extravagant and fantastic house or palace to be called "Pomeroy." His mind went back ten years to those dingy rooms which he and this boy, so much younger than himself, had shared. He could see the bare table and the youth stooping over it—the paper, the water-colour, the pencil, the hard white electric light sweeping down on it all, and the firm young face frowning with absorption in his work, the vigorous young figure, the supple young hand—all came back to him, not for the first time. Hilary Carstairs had cared for nothing but his work. He had a passion for architecture, and above all, a passion for this particular house, this palace in the mountains among the woods, set in luxurious gardens. It had haunted him, he had often said, all his short life.

"I've not invented it," he used to say. "I've been there; it's something I've seen in dreams, of course."

And when the great competition had been announced for a wealthy man's luxurious palace, Hilary Carstairs had laughed aloud.

"Why, I could do that, of course," he had cried; "it's my palace—my 'castle in the air' come true."

And John Bearden had watched him day by day evolving his drawings, his plans, his description; while he also, entering with ardour and with tempestuous ambition into the same competition, clutching desperately at this same great chance, had been able to do no more than an able, accomplished design.

The day that Hilary Carstairs had died in the hospital, John Bearden had gone back to their rooms and looked at the two sets of designs lying on the work-table side by the side.

"It's yours to do what you like with," the dying boy had said, and Bearden had rubbed out the signature and put his own in place of it...coldly, carefully.

He effaced Hilary Carstairs for ever and set John Bearden in his place. He knew that these drawings showed genius and must reap the inevitable reward of genius, and that his own showed no more than painstaking talent, which so often goes unrewarded, and he sent in Hilary Carstairs' drawings under his own name, and his own inferior drawings under that of Hilary Carstairs.

No one guessed—why should anyone? And he had done no wrong. Of that he again and again solemnly assured himself—he had done no wrong. What would youthful fame and money and Aurelia have been to that poor dead boy? He wanted all three—he was alive and avid for all that life could give; while that poor broken clay—what did that want with any of it? And if there was a spirit separate from the clay, what did that want, either? "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's," he had quoted to himself. "I am of the world, and want what the world offers."

And he had taken Hilary Carstairs' fame and money, and Aurelia, who had come to him through that drawing of the castle where he said he had walked in dreams. "I wonder if they ever met," he mused, looking at the faded photograph in front of him.

"And he is like Johnny—dreadfully like Johnny."

John Bearden put his worn face in his lean hands. Just now it had been as if Hilary Carstairs had stood between them—a poor definite shade dividing them. He had robbed him, this dead boy, of everything; but no one had ever known. They had both been so poor and obscure that there was very little evidence of the genius of Hilary Carstairs, and what little there had been had been most carefully and thoughtfully destroyed. All but these sketches, and from their destruction, through some superstitious horror, he had refrained, but now they should go. And the photograph with them—that photograph with the horrible grotesque likeness to his son.

How would he feel when Johnny was nineteen, looking at him with the eager eyes of Hilary Carstairs? Yes, the photograph must go. He wished he had destroyed it long since, for he had begun to forget the likeness which he had seen growing day by day in the child's face. Now he had been reminded of it, so harshly and so fiercely.

He found himself talking out loud addressing the photograph and striking his hand on the desk.

"My work," he cried, "I've built it all up by my own efforts; all has been my own work, and good work, work that has been highly praised, well paid for; it's been my own life, and my own wife. I've made Aurelia happy—not you; you never even saw her."

Then he paused, frightened at having been provoked into this passionate speech, and put his nervous fingers to his shuddering lips.

"I could have succeeded without that chance," he muttered to himself, "and she'll never know—never, never. And yet hadn't she always known that there was just something wrong? Their life in this work, in the child. I'm losing myself in fancies. I ought to have lived this down years ago."

He effaced the name from all the drawings, he had torn the photograph into small pieces. He put all back into the portfolio and locked it in the bureau. There was no fire in the room, he must find another means of destruction.

He couldn't go on building for her the house that she wished to call "Little Pomeroy." He couldn't take those designs home to her. There was a limit. He must find some excuse—he would forget; she would be content with a substitute—she was well used to that, was Aurelia; for all her life she had had to be content with a substitute—all their life together.

He went home and found her in an amiable and tender mood. She was sorry for something—she did not know what—something that had happened at his office that afternoon. She accepted his excuses, cold and dry excuses, about the drawings. His mood did not seem in any way to annoy or disturb her. She said that they would call the house "Bellflowers," and he must finish it as he wished...

"That's the end," thought John Bearden. "I'm free, I shall never hear any more of it. I've robbed him of everything now, there's nothing left to take."

In this he was mistaken.

After dinner, Aurelia, who had been musing over an old book, said:

"Where is that poor young man buried, John? Hilary Carstairs, I mean. He seems to have been so lonely, I should like to send some flowers to his grave."

Bitter jealousy shook John Bearden's soul. After all these years, to be haunted like this. There was still something of which he could rob Hilary Carstairs. He knew where that neglected grave was. He had stood beside it when the coffin was lowered into the yellow clay. He had put a stone over it, out of the stolen prize-money, and never anything else.

And now Aurelia wanted to go there and put flowers on it. She knew, of course, she knew! But he would take good care that she should never know that he knew...

"His people came and took him away," he answered quietly. "I don't know where—somewhere in Scotland, I suppose."

"I'm sorry," mused Aurelia quietly, turning over the pages of her book.

"Sorry for whom?"

John Bearden could not forbear this dangerous remark.

"I don't know," smiled Aurelia, "but I should have liked to take the flowers, that's all."

"Sorry for whom?" he repeated with deeper nervousness.

"Oh," she replied vaguely, "for all of us, I suppose."


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