« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
He laughed happily, and presently she went up on deck and stood with her face to the breeze. There were no sounds save the musical beat of the water against the strakes, and the low hum of wind on the towering vibrant sails. One moulten silver star stood out above all others. To the northward, somewhere beyond the spot where sea and sky met in the hidden kiss of night, was Newport,—were his relations and her friends. What did they think? He, at least, had no anxieties about the world, why should she? Their defiance of it had been no greater than that of an hundred others on whom it had smiled benignly. But had not the others truckled more to its conventions? Little she cared about it, indeed, and if he had turned the prow of the Adhemar towards the unpeopled places of the earth, her joy would have been untroubled.
One after another the days glided by, while with the sharpened senses of a great love she watched for a sign of the thing that slept in him--of the thing that had driven him home from his wanderings to re-create his life. When it awoke, she would have to share him; now he was hers alone. Her feelings towards this thing did not assume the proportions of jealousy or fear! they were merely alert, vaguely disquieting. The sleeping thing was not a monster. No, but it might grow into one, if its appetite were not satisfied, and blame her!
She told herself that, had he lacked ambition, she could not have loved him, and did not stop to reflect upon the completeness of her satisfaction with the Viking. He seemed, indeed, in these weeks, one whom the sea has marked for its own, and her delight in watching him as he moved about the boat never palled. His nose reminded her of the prow of a ship of war, and his deep-set eyes were continually searching the horizon for an enemy. Such were her fancies. In the early morning when he donned his sleeveless bathing suit, she could never resist the temptation to follow him on deck to see him plunge into the cold ocean: it gave her a delightful little shiver—and he was made like one of the gods of Valhalla.
She had discovered, too, in these intimate days, that he had the Northman's temperament; she both loved and dreaded his moods. And sometimes, when the yacht glided over smoother
seas, it was his pleasure to read to her, even poetry and the great epics. That he should be fond of the cruel Scotch ballads she was not surprised; but his familiarity with the book of Job, and his love for it, astonished her. It was a singular library that he had put on board the Adhemar.
One evening when the sails flapped idly and the blocks rattled, when they had been watching in silence the flaming orange of the sunset above the amethystine Camden hills, he spoke the words for which she had been waiting.
“Honora, what do you say to going back to Grenoble?” She succeeded in smiling at him. “Whenever you like, Hugh,” she said.
So the bowsprit of the Adhemar was turned homewards; and with every league of water they left behind them his excitement and impatience seemed to grow.
“I can't wait to show it to you, Honora—to see you in it,” he exclaimed. “I have so long pictured you there, and our life as it will be.”
The Entrance into Eden They had travelled through the night, and in the early morning left the express at a junction. Honora sat in the straight-backed seat of the smaller train with parted lips and beating heart, gazing now and again at the pearly mists rising from the little river valley they were climbing. Chiltern was like a schoolboy.
“We'll soon be there,” he cried, but it was nearly nine o'clock when they reached the Gothic station that marked the end of the line. It was a Chiltern line, he told her, and she was already within the feudal domain. Time indeed that she awoke! She reached the platform to confront a group of upturned, staring faces, and for the moment her courage failed her. Somehow, with Chiltern's help, she made her way to a waiting omnibus backed up against the boards. The footman touched his hat, the grey-headed coachman saluted, and they got in. As the horses started off at a quick trot, Honora saw that the group on the station platform had with one consent swung about to stare after them.
They passed through the main street of the town, lined with plate-glass windows and lively signs, and already bustling with the business of the day, through humbler thoroughfares, and presently rumbled over a bridge that spanned a rushing stream confined between the foundation walls of mills. Hundreds of yards of mills stretched away on either side; mills with windows wide open, and within them Honora heard the clicking and roaring of machinery, and saw the men and women at their daily tasks. Life was a strange thing that they should be doing this while she should be going to live in luxury at a great country place. On one of the walls she read the legend: Chiltern and Company.
“They still keep our name,” said Hugh, “although they are in the trust.”
He pointed out to her, with an air of pride, every landmark by the roadside. In future they were to have a new meaning—they were to be shared with her. And he spoke of the times as child and youth, home from the seashore or college, he had driven over the same road. It wound to the left, behind the mills, threaded a village of neat wooden houses where the better class of operatives lived, reached the river again, and turned at last through a brick gateway, past a lodge in the dense shade of sheltering boughs, into a wooded drive that climbed, by gentle degrees, a slope. Human care for generations had given to the place a tradition. People had lived here and loved those trees-his people. And could it be that she was to inherit all this, with him? Was her name really Chiltern?
The beating of her heart became a pain when in the distance through the spreading branches she caught a glimpse of the long, low outline of the house, a vision at once familiar and unreal. How often in the months gone by had she called up the memory of the photograph she had once seen, only to doubt the more that she should ever behold that house and these trees with him by her side! They drew up before the door, and a venerable ruddy-faced butler stood gravely on the steps to welcome them. Hugh leaped out. He was still the schoolboy.
"Starling," he said, "this is Mrs. Chiltern.”
“Starling's an old friend, Honora. He's been here ever since I can remember.”
The blue eyes of the old servant were fixed on her with a strange, searching expression. Was it compassion she read in them, on this that should be the happiest of her days? In that instant, unaccountably, her heart went out to the old man; and something of what he had seen, and something of what was even now passing within him, came to her in. tuitively. It was as though, unexpectedly, she had found a
friend--and a friend who had had no previous intentions of friendship.
“I'm sure I wish you happiness, madam,—and Mr. Hugh," he said in a voice not altogether firm.
“Happiness!” cried Hugh. “I've never known what it was before now, Starling."
The old man's eyes glistened.
They entered the hall. It was wide and cool, white panelled to the ceiling, with a dark oak floor. At the back of it was an eighteenth-century stairway, with a band of red carpet running up the steps, and a wrought-iron guard with a velvetcovered rail. Halfway up, the stairway divided at a landing, lighted by great triple windows of small panes.
"You may have breakfast in half an hour, Starling," said Chiltern, and led Honora up the stairs into the east wing, where he flung open one of the high mahogany doors on the south side. “These are your rooms, Honora. I have had Keller do them all over for you, and I hope you'll like them. If you don't, we'll change them again."
Her answer was an exclamation of delight. There was a bedroom in pink, with brocaded satin on the walls, and an oriel window thrust out over the garden; a panelled boudoir at the corner of the house, with a marble mantel before which one of Marie Antoinette's duchesses had warmed her feet; and shelves lined with gold-lettered books. From its windows, across the flowering shrubbery and through the trees, she saw the gleaming waters of a lake, and the hills beyond. From this view she turned, and caught her breath, and threw her arms about her husband's neck. He was astonished to see that her eyes were filled with tears.
“Oh, Hugh,” she cried, “it's too perfect! It almost makes me afraid."
“We shall be very happy, dearest,” he said, and as he sed her he laughed at the fates.
“I hope so I pray 'so," she said, as she clung to him. “But-don't laugh.-I can't bear it.”