Harry went home to luncheon and hurried to the wood again immediately
afterwards. He had much farther to go to the trysting-place than she.
She might even be waiting for him when he got there.
She was not there, and after half an hour she had not come.
Oh cruel! And yet he knew, as his longing grew and his hopes fell, that
she would have come if she could. Her father had claimed her; something
out of her power to prevent or foresee had kept her away. She would not
stay away from him for ever.
Yet he was increasingly unhappy as the time passed and the green frame
remained empty of its sweet picture. The heat of a summer afternoon lay
brooding on the silent wood, and was like lead upon his heart. He paced
up and down the path, to the corner from which the garden of the cottage
could be seen. He thought of going to it, and talking to Mrs. Ivimey,
who would know what had become of Viola, and would certainly talk to him
about her. But no, he could not do that. It would be sweet to hear her
name on other lips, but he would have to pretend that he was hearing of
her for the first time, and he shrank from that, and from all that it
would imply. He never went farther than the corner, and by and by his
hope of seeing her that afternoon died away completely.
He had come out prepared to stay away until dinnertime, but now he
thought he would go home to tea, and come back immediately afterwards.
His absence would not then be questioned until he came back at night.
They did not like him to stay away from dinner too often, but he had not
done so for some time, and if he said that he was going out into the
woods they would not seek to prevent him.
He was all at sea with himself as at last he dragged himself away from
the empty place, which might still be brightened by her coming, with
many backward looks and much lingering. He knew that something that
could easily be explained had kept her, and yet he was desperately
unhappy because she had failed him. Did she want him as much as he
wanted her? Would anything in the world have kept him away if he had
promised to come to her? Supposing she should not come at all that day!
He shrank from the thought of the long night that would divide him from
her, if he had not seen her before it fell. But his spirit was tired
with suspense. The world seemed full of trouble and disappointment as
he made his way homewards.
The one thing he never thought of was that, somehow, their meeting of
the morning might have been discovered, and she had been forbidden to
meet him again. They had met, and promised to meet again, in all the
innocence of their youth. If their elders had known of it, it would
have spoilt their happy secret, but that was all. It had not occurred
to Harry that it would spoil anything else.
They had tea on the terrace outside the drawing-room. It was always the
same at home. Day after day, all the year round, it was always the
same. In winter the tea tables were placed near one of the two fires
that warmed the long room, at other times near one of the windows, or in
the summer on the terrace outside. The four of them would sit round and
talk, Lady Brent dispensing the tea, over which she was very particular.
Occasionally some one from the Vicarage would be there, but scarcely
ever anybody else. The friendships that had formerly been between the
Castle and other big houses within reach had fallen off, and it was the
rarest thing for visitors to appear there.
It might have been expected that, meeting like that, day after day, at
formal meals as well as at this informal one, and with no intrusion from
the outer world to break the monotony of their lives, they would have
had nothing to say to one another. But there was always a great deal to
say. Wilbraham read voluminously, Lady Brent read, and even Mrs. Brent
read. They talked of what they had read in the papers and what they had
read in books; but Mrs. Brent did not take part in the conversation over
what they had read in books.
And there was the life immediately around them to talk about. If Royd
Castle was cut off from the ordinary social intercourse that gathers
about a large country house, it was by no means divided from the
interests that depend upon ownership. There were a few hundred people
living around it in direct relationship, and the personal contact with
them was the closer because it represented nearly all the human interest
there was in the life that was led there. It supplied the gossip which
in some form or other is congenial to the most exalted minds, and
without which little Mrs. Brent at least would have found the
conversation unbearably arid.
Lady Brent visited among the tenantry assiduously. She was inclined to
exercise authority, but could not fairly be said to be dictatorial.
They were on their best behaviour before her, but there were few among
them who had not some kindness to remember from her. Mrs. Brent also
visited them and avoided doing so in the company of her mother-in-law if
she possibly could. Her intercourse with them was on a more intimate
plane. Her position as a great lady had to be implicitly accepted, but
if this was done she would sit and talk with more than mere affability.
Harry was her chief subject of conversation, and all the people of Royd
loved Harry and expected great things of him. It might have surprised
Lady Brent if she had known how clearly it was in the minds of those
whom she treated as her dependents that she was only exercising
temporary authority, and how much they looked forward to the time when
her rule would be over. This was not because they found it irksome, for
she ruled justly and considerately. But she had ruled for a long time
and change is pleasant to most of us. Besides, the Castle provided very
little variety of interest to those who lived within its shadow. It had
not always been so, and it was expected that it would not be so when
Harry came into his own.
Mrs. Brent could sometimes be induced to talk about the time that was
coming, if she was flattered into a state of intimacy and skilfully
drawn out. She was always careful not to create an impression that she
and Lady Brent were at all antagonistic, but it was understood by
everybody that this was so, the extent of the antagonism was gauged to a
nicety, and the causes for it were frequently discussed and generally
The fact that Mrs. Brent derived from the stage was not actually known,
but it would have surprised nobody to hear it; nor did her claims to
belonging of right to the class into which she had married carry the
smallest weight, however much they might be indulged. It was generally
agreed that Lady Brent had done the right thing in absorbing her into
the atmosphere of the Castle, and in keeping her closely under its
influence. Poor little lady! She’d have liked to get away from it
sometimes, and small blame to her! But ’twouldn’t ha’ done. She was all
right where she was, and a nice little thing too, if you took her the
right way; but there! she wasn’t what you’d expect for Sir Harry’s
mother, and her ladyship’s was the only way to keep him from knowing it.
So these remote but clear-sighted and kindly people judged of the
situation at the Castle, and on the whole approved of it. As for Harry
himself they one and all adored him. They were the only friends he had
had outside his home from his childhood, and they were real friends.
There was not one of them, man, woman or child, who had not some special
feeling for him different from that of the rest. He knew them all, and
was interested in them all, with a purely human sympathy. When the time
came for him to take the reins, he would be dealing not with an
impersonal aggregate, but with those whose interests were also his; and
he would be regarded with a loyalty and affection which is enjoyed by
Wilbraham kept himself more to himself, as was said of him, but had his
friends too at Royd. It was he who brought Harry’s heart to his mouth
this afternoon by the announcement, made in a casual voice: “There is an
artist come to stay at Mrs. Ivimey’s. He rejoices in the name of
Michael Angelo Bastian, which ought to mean that he is a very fine
artist; but I’ve never heard of him. Have you?”
“No,” said Lady Brent, who had been addressed. “But I did not know that
Mrs. Ivimey let rooms. I think she should have asked me first. Nobody
at Royd has done it hitherto.”
“I wonder how she could get any one to take rooms in such an
out-of-the-way place as hers,” said Mrs. Brent.
“I can tell you that,” said Wilbraham. “I had it all from Prout.”
Prout combined the occupations of shoemaker and postman at Royd. “Mrs.
Ivimey has a sister who lives in London and lets lodgings. Michael
Angelo Bastian lodges with her. The rest is plain to the meanest
Harry was faced with the immediate alternative of acknowledging that he
was aware of the fact stated or of affecting ignorance of it. If he
kept silence now it would be deliberate and purposeful silence, and he
might later on be called upon to explain it. He had not faced this; he
had not faced anything in connection with Viola that had to do with the
Perhaps he would have spoken, if his mind had not been so full of his
late disappointment, and of his reviving hopes of still meeting Viola
that evening. He could not bring himself immediately to the point of
making a decision, and when Lady Brent had next spoken, and Wilbraham
had answered her, the time had gone by for him to speak. His not having
done so directly Bastian’s name had been mentioned would need
explanation now. With a mental shrug of the shoulders he kept silence,
and felt a warm delicious glow as he took the further step towards a
fenced and guarded intimacy with Viola which no one outside must
penetrate. The pleasure of hugging his secret afresh swamped the
half-guilty feeling which had preceded it in his mind. He did not even
ask himself why it should have come to him, but his attitude towards his
elders underwent a slight change from that moment. His youth was to be
defended from them; it had its rights, which could brook no
As he hurried off again to the trysting-place, he was glad once more
that he had refrained from betraying his secret, as he had been glad
that he had resisted the impulse to confide in his mother the night
before. He knew now that they would have disapproved. Some breath from
the outside world, which divides people up into categories in a way he
had never had to take into account, had come to him from the discussion
he had just listened to. His grandmother had shown persistent concern
at Mrs. Ivimey’s having let her rooms without consultation with her.
Such a thing had never happened before in Royd. You didn’t know what
sort of people you might get, if it became a practice. An artist—there
was no great harm perhaps in an artist; but— The postman had evidently
not known, or if he had he had not told Wilbraham, that this particular
artist had invaded the sanctities of Royd accompanied by a daughter, but
Harry had felt instinctively that her presence would have increased the
objections expressed by Lady Brent to Mrs. Ivimey’s taking in anybody at
all. It had come to him somehow that Viola’s delicious charm would have
done nothing to recommend her, had she been known, and that his mother
would by no means have taken the confidence that it had been in his mind
to make to her the night before in the spirit in which it would have
The reasons for all this were not clear to him. He had of course no
idea that he was to be preserved at all costs from falling into
unauthorized love; he had no more than a purely academic knowledge of
what falling in love meant, and no idea as yet that he was already very
deep in it himself. There were many things in which his inclinations
had clashed with the rules formulated by his elders—as, for instance, in
the matter of visits to the stables, during his early childhood. This
was one of them, but he was not to be bound now by the views of his
elders, and it was not necessary to examine their origin. There was a
vague discomfort in the idea that he was setting himself against them,
but no admission in his mind that he was in any way wrong in doing so.
And even the slight discomfort was more than balanced by the feeling
that his secret must certainly now be guarded, which had the effect of
somehow bringing him and Viola more closely together.
It had been decided chat Wilbraham was to seek out the artist, and if he
found him to be the sort of person who could be asked to Royd, he was to
ask him there. Harry smiled to himself, as he thought of the
possibilities ahead. He must tell Viola, and he and she must decide
what was to be done about it. It gave him a thrill to think of their
deciding anything together. He quickened his steps. There were such
oceans to talk to her about. He had no doubts now about her coming to
meet him; he had almost persuaded himself that she would be there
waiting for him.
But the green frame was still empty of its picture, as he had left it an
hour before. The evening light was slanting on it now, giving warning
that the time they would have to spend together was diminishing. But
there were nearly two hours of daylight still. Surely she would come
before the dusk fell!
He stretched himself under a tree, from where he could watch the place
where she would appear. His mood was not yet impatient. She would
surely come, and in the meantime he could think about her.
He did not think of her as a lover thinks of the mistress enthroned in
his heart, to worship her there. He had not consciously enthroned her as
yet. He thought of her as a wonderful revelation of something he must
surely have been looking for all his life, since it was impossible now
to think of life without her. She had come into his life, in some way
to translate its meaning for him—for both of them. She was a revelation
from the good influences all around him, as the vision of the fairies
had been. He had got as far as that, and had told her so. It had been
very sweet to tell her that; it would be sweet to tell her everything
that came into his head. There was nothing that he would not want to
tell her, at once and first of all. In his innocence of the world and
the way of the world, he had reached that point in love’s pilgrimage
where the loved one shines out as the sweet vessel into which all
confidences may be poured, and the desire is strong for a common aim and
a common vision. But he had not reached the point, which usually
precedes it, of an ardent desire for some sort of surrender. Perhaps it
is not true to say that he had not yet enthroned Viola in his heart, for
she sat there the centre of everything. But she sat there apart, as if
she had mounted the steps of the throne without his hand to raise her.
She must descend again and stand with him on the level ground of mutual
desire before her seat should be secure and acknowledged.
But as he waited for her, and the desire for her sheer presence became
stronger and stronger, he was being led towards that desire for
surrender. The sweetest thing now would be, not to pour himself out in
confidences to her, which would still be very sweet, but to obtain from
her that look or that word which would move him to the depths.
He went over in his mind the looks and words he had received from her,
and thirsted for more. The very first time their eyes had met, before a
word had been spoken between them, she had looked at him, with something
behind the look with which his memory blissfully played. Once or twice
that morning, by the pool, and again when she had turned towards him and
stood gazing, far off, there had been something that thrilled him with
happiness to remember. And there had been tones in her voice, little
things she had said—he dwelt upon them all, and longed to draw more of
them from her. He would say this to her; greatly daring, he would say
that. And she would reply; or if she spoke no answer he would watch her
face, and gain courage from it for speeches still more daring.
But an hour passed, and she had not come to him.
The sun was sinking now. Outside the wood, under the open sky, its rays
would be drawing the shadow of the rocks and the gorse across the close
turf; there would be a soft golden radiance in all the air, and on the
bright distant pavement of the sea. But here under the trees it was
already dusk, and a gloom descended on his heart, as he thought of the
sunset, from the sight of which he was shut off.
It was like a parable to him. He had never before missed the glory of a
sunset, if he was out of doors. The woods had never kept him from that
enlarging sight. They were for other times; not less loved then, but now
seeming to hold him enchained in a menacing gloom. And so, just out of
his reach was the solace for which he craved, but in place of it
darkness was settling down over his heart, and trouble clutching at it.
But he would not go out of the wood. She might come still. The thought
brought him no relief; his long watch had emptied his mind of the
springs of hope. But still he waited for her. If she did come, she
must find him there.
The darkness had settled down now. There was a fading light in the sky
that could be seen here and there through the thick canopy of leaves,
but beneath them only eyes that had grown used to the darkness could
have descried anything.
The boy lay stretched at length on the grass, his face to the ground,
utterly weary and utterly miserable. He had no strength to tear himself
from this unhappy spot and go home; he only wanted to lie there in his
pain, which still had a little of sweetness in it as long as he lingered
in the place where he had last seen her.
He never moved. His body was as still as on that night in which he had
kept his eager vigil, and at last been rewarded. But it was the
stillness of exhaustion. No hope was left to him now.
But his ears, trained since his childhood to catch the lightest whispers
of nature, and to interpret them, alert in spite of himself, heard
something that was not of the life sinking to rest around him. He
raised himself suddenly, almost violently, and peered into the darkness,
all his senses once more on edge.
And out of the darkness she came, no more than a moth-glimmer flitting
towards him. A wild joy filled him, down to the very depths of his
being. He sprang up and ran towards her.
She gave a little cry that was half a sob, and flew to his embrace. His
arms were around her, and his lips on hers. In all the long hours
through which he had yearned for her, and played with the thought of her
sweetness, no such blissful end to his waiting had entered his mind as