"He will have to marry her," said Philip. "I heard from him this
morning, just as we left Milan. He finds he has gone too far to back
out. It would be expensive. I don't know how much he minds--not as
much as we suppose, I think. At all events there's not a word of blame in
the letter. I don't believe he even feels angry. I never was so
completely forgiven. Ever since you stopped him killing me, it has been a
vision of perfect friendship. He nursed me, he lied for me at the inquest,
and at the funeral, though he was crying, you would have thought it was my son
who had died. Certainly I was the only person he had to be kind to; he was
so distressed not to make Harriet's acquaintance, and that he scarcely saw
anything of you. In his letter he says so
"Thank him, please, when you write," said
Miss Abbott, "and give him my kindest
"Indeed I will." He was surprised
that she could slide away from the man so easily. For his own part, he was
bound by ties of almost alarming intimacy. Gino had the southern knack of
friendship. In the intervals of business he would pull out Philip's life,
turn it inside out, remodel it, and advise him how to use it for the best.
The sensation was pleasant, for he was a kind as well as a skilful
operator. But Philip came away feeling that he had not a secret corner
left. In that very letter Gino had again implored him, as a refuge from
domestic difficulties, "to marry Miss Abbott, even if her dowry is small."
And how Miss Abbott herself, after such tragic intercourse, could resume the
conventions and send calm messages of esteem, was more than he could
"When will you see him again?" she
asked. They were standing together in the corridor of the train, slowly
ascending out of Italy towards the San Gothard
"I hope next spring. Perhaps we shall
paint Siena red for a day or two with some of the new wife's money. It was
one of the arguments for marrying her."
"He has no
heart," she said severely. "He does not really mind about the child at
"No; you're wrong. He does. He is
unhappy, like the rest of us. But he doesn't try to keep up appearances as
we do. He knows that the things that have made him happy once will
probably make him happy again--"
"He said he would
never be happy again."
"In his passion. Not
when he was calm. We English say it when we are calm--when we do not
really believe it any longer. Gino is not ashamed of inconsistency.
It is one of the many things I like him for."
was wrong. That is so."
"He's much more honest
with himself than I am," continued Philip, "and he is honest without an effort
and without pride. But you, Miss Abbott, what about you? Will you be
in Italy next
sorry. When will you come back, do you
"For whatever reason?" He stared at her
as if she were some monstrosity.
understand the place. There is no
"Understand Italy!" he
I don't. And I don't understand you," he murmured to himself, as he paced
away from her up the corridor. By this time he loved her very much, and he
could not bear to be puzzled. He had reached love by the spiritual path:
her thoughts and her goodness and her nobility had moved him first, and now her
whole body and all its gestures had become transfigured by them. The
beauties that are called obvious--the beauties of her hair and her voice and her
limbs--he had noticed these last; Gino, who never traversed any path at all, had
commended them dispassionately to his friend.
he so puzzling? He had known so much about her once--what she thought, how
she felt, the reasons for her actions. And now he only knew that he loved
her, and all the other knowledge seemed passing from him just as he needed it
most. Why would she never come to Italy again? Why had she avoided
himself and Gino ever since the evening that she had saved their lives?
The train was nearly empty. Harriet slumbered in a compartment by
herself. He must ask her these questions now, and he returned quickly to
her down the corridor.
She greeted him with a
question of her own. "Are your plans
"Yes. I can't live at
"Have you told Mrs.
"I wrote from Monteriano. I tried to
explain things; but she will never understand me. Her view will be that
the affair is settled--sadly settled since the baby is dead. Still it's
over; our family circle need be vexed no more. She won't even be angry
with you. You see, you have done us no harm in the long run. Unless,
of course, you talk about Harriet and make a scandal. So that is my
plan--London and work. What is yours?"
Harriet!" said Miss Abbott. "As if I dare judge Harriet! Or
anybody." And without replying to Philip's question she left him to visit
the other invalid.
Philip gazed after her mournfully,
and then he looked mournfully out of the window at the decreasing streams.
All the excitement was over--the inquest, Harriet's short illness, his own visit
to the surgeon. He was convalescent, both in body and spirit, but
convalescence brought no joy. In the looking-glass at the end of the
corridor he saw his face haggard, and his shoulders pulled forward by the weight
of the sling. Life was greater than he had supposed, but it was even less
complete. He had seen the need for strenuous work and for
righteousness. And now he saw what a very little way those things would
"Is Harriet going to be all right?" he
asked. Miss Abbott had come back to him.
will soon be her old self," was the reply. For Harriet, after a short
paroxysm of illness and remorse, was quickly returning to her normal
state. She had been "thoroughly upset" as she phrased it, but she soon
ceased to realize that anything was wrong beyond the death of a poor little
child. Already she spoke of "this unlucky accident," and "the mysterious
frustration of one's attempts to make things better." Miss Abbott had seen
that she was comfortable, and had given her a kind kiss. But she returned
feeling that Harriet, like her mother, considered the affair as
"I'm clear enough about Harriet's future,
and about parts of my own. But I ask again, What about
"Sawston and work," said Miss
she asked, smiling.
"You've seen too much.
You've seen as much and done more than I have."
it's so different. Of course I shall go to Sawston. You forget my
father; and even if he wasn't there, I've a hundred ties: my district--I'm
neglecting it shamefully--my evening classes, the St.
"Silly nonsense!" he exploded, suddenly
moved to have the whole thing out with her. "You're too good--about a
thousand times better than I am. You can't live in that hole; you must go
among people who can hope to understand you. I mind for myself. I
want to see you often--again and again."
we shall meet whenever you come down; and I hope that it will mean
"It's not enough; it'll only be in the old
horrible way, each with a dozen relatives round us. No, Miss Abbott; it's
not good enough."
"We can write at all
"You will write?" he cried, with a flush of
pleasure. At times his hopes seemed so
"But I say it's not enough--you can't go
back to the old life if you wanted to. Too much has
"I know that," she said
"Not only pain and sorrow, but wonderful
things: that tower in the sunlight--do you remember it, and all you said to
me? The theatre, even. And the next day--in the church; and our
times with Gino."
"All the wonderful things are
over," she said. "That is just where it is."
don't believe it. At all events not for me. The most wonderful
things may be to come--"
"The wonderful things are
over," she repeated, and looked at him so mournfully that he dare not contradict
her. The train was crawling up the last ascent towards the Campanile of
Airolo and the entrance of the tunnel.
he murmured, speaking quickly, as if their free intercourse might soon be ended,
"what is the matter with you? I thought I understood you, and I
don't. All those two great first days at Monteriano I read you as clearly
as you read me still. I saw why you had come, and why you changed sides,
and afterwards I saw your wonderful courage and pity. And now you're frank
with me one moment, as you used to be, and the next moment you shut me up.
You see I owe too much to you--my life, and I don't know what besides. I
won't stand it. You've gone too far to turn mysterious. I'll quote
what you said to me: 'Don't be mysterious; there isn't the time.' I'll quote
something else: 'I and my life must be where I live.' You can't live at
He had moved her at last. She
whispered to herself hurriedly. "It is tempting--" And those three
words threw him into a tumult of joy. What was tempting to her?
After all was the greatest of things possible? Perhaps, after long
estrangement, after much tragedy, the South had brought them together in the
end. That laughter in the theatre, those silver stars in the purple sky,
even the violets of a departed spring, all had helped, and sorrow had helped
also, and so had tenderness to others.
tempting," she repeated, "not to be mysterious. I've wanted often to tell
you, and then been afraid. I could never tell any one else, certainly no
woman, and I think you're the one man who might understand and not be
"Are you lonely?" he whispered. "Is
it anything like that?"
"Yes." The train seemed
to shake him towards her. He was resolved that though a dozen people were
looking, he would yet take her in his arms. "I'm terribly lonely, or I
wouldn't speak. I think you must know already." Their faces were
crimson, as if the same thought was surging through them
"Perhaps I do." He came close to
her. "Perhaps I could speak instead. But if you will say the word
plainly you'll never be sorry; I will thank you for it all my
She said plainly, "That I love him."
Then she broke down. Her body was shaken with sobs, and lest there should
be any doubt she cried between the sobs for Gino! Gino!
He heard himself remark "Rather! I love
him too! When I can forget how he hurt me that evening. Though
whenever we shake hands--" One of them must have moved a step or two, for
when she spoke again she was already a little way
"You've upset me." She stifled something
that was perilously near hysterics. "I thought I was past all this.
You're taking it wrongly. I'm in love with Gino--don't pass it off--I mean
it crudely--you know what I mean. So laugh at
"Laugh at love?" asked
"Yes. Pull it to pieces. Tell me
I'm a fool or worse--that he's a cad. Say all you said when Lilia fell in
love with him. That's the help I want. I dare tell you this because
I like you--and because you're without passion; you look on life as a spectacle;
you don't enter it; you only find it funny or beautiful. So I can trust
you to cure me. Mr. Herriton, isn't it funny?" She tried to laugh
herself, but became frightened and had to stop. "He's not a gentleman, nor
a Christian, nor good in any way. He's never flattered me nor honoured
me. But because he's handsome, that's been enough. The son of an
Italian dentist, with a pretty face." She repeated the phrase as if it was
a charm against passion. "Oh, Mr. Herriton, isn't it funny!" Then,
to his relief, she began to cry. "I love him, and I'm not ashamed of
it. I love him, and I'm going to Sawston, and if I mayn't speak about him
to you sometimes, I shall die."
In that terrible
discovery Philip managed to think not of himself but of her. He did not
lament. He did not even speak to her kindly, for he saw that she could not
stand it. A flippant reply was what she asked and needed--something
flippant and a little cynical. And indeed it was the only reply he could
trust himself to make.
"Perhaps it is what the books
call 'a passing fancy'?"
She shook her head.
Even this question was too pathetic. For as far as she knew anything about
herself, she knew that her passions, once aroused, were sure. "If I saw
him often," she said, "I might remember what he is like. Or he might grow
old. But I dare not risk it, so nothing can alter me
"Well, if the fancy does pass, let me
know." After all, he could say what he
"Oh, you shall know quick
"But before you retire to Sawston--are you
so mighty sure?"
"What of?" She had stopped
crying. He was treating her exactly as she had
"That you and he--" He smiled bitterly
at the thought of them together. Here was the cruel antique malice of the
gods, such as they once sent forth against Pasiphae. Centuries of
aspiration and culture--and the world could not escape it. "I was going to
say--whatever have you got in common?"
except the times we have seen each other." Again her face was
crimson. He turned his own face
"The time I thought you weak and heedless,
and went instead of you to get the baby. That began it, as far as I know
the beginning. Or it may have begun when you took us to the theatre, and I
saw him mixed up with music and light. But didn't understand till the
morning. Then you opened the door--and I knew why I had been so
happy. Afterwards, in the church, I prayed for us all; not for anything
new, but that we might just be as we were--he with the child he loved, you and I
and Harriet safe out of the place--and that I might never see him or speak to
him again. I could have pulled through then--the thing was only coming
near, like a wreath of smoke; it hadn't wrapped me
"But through my fault," said Philip solemnly,
"he is parted from the child he loves. And because my life was in danger
you came and saw him and spoke to him again." For the thing was even
greater than she imagined. Nobody but himself would ever see round it
now. And to see round it he was standing at an immense distance. He
could even be glad that she had once held the beloved in her
"Don't talk of 'faults.' You're my friend for
ever, Mr. Herriton, I think. Only don't be charitable and shift or take
the blame. Get over supposing I'm refined. That's what puzzles
you. Get over that."
As he spoke she seemed to
be transfigured, and to have indeed no part with refinement or unrefinement any
longer. Out of this wreck there was revealed to him something
indestructible--something which she, who had given it, could never take
"I say again, don't be charitable. If he
had asked me, I might have given myself body and soul. That would have
been the end of my rescue party. But all through he took me for a superior
being--a goddess. I who was worshipping every inch of him, and every word
he spoke. And that saved me."
were fixed on the Campanile of Airolo. But he saw instead the fair myth of
Endymion. This woman was a goddess to the end. For her no love could
be degrading: she stood outside all degradation. This episode, which she
thought so sordid, and which was so tragic for him, remained supremely
beautiful. To such a height was he lifted, that without regret he could
now have told her that he was her worshipper too. But what was the use of
telling her? For all the wonderful things had
"Thank you," was all that he permitted
himself. "Thank you for everything."
at him with great friendliness, for he had made her life endurable. At
that moment the train entered the San Gothard tunnel. They hurried back to
the carriage to close the windows lest the smuts should get into Harriet's