As for her son, he did not go to bed very soon. He had a good deal to think about apart from that grave step which he had taken in the morning—the first important step he had ever taken before breakfast. As a matter of fact, everything that he had to think about he thought about quite apart from his discharging the drowsy and thirsty Mr. Verrall, though to be sure there was a certain connection between the person whom he had in his mind and his recently-acquired zeal to set his household in order.

He had come upon her on the tennis ground when he was about to enter the court for the Mixed Doubles, and she had greeted him with smiles, but with no cry of “You see what I made you do yesterday!” He had asked her at what time she had left the ground the previous day, and she had said “Just after your match.”

“You saw it, then?”

“Oh, yes, I saw it. You surprised poor Mr. Glenister.”

“And anyone else?”

“Probably yourself.”

“Probably everyone on the ground except you.”

“I am glad you except me.”

“I could swear by the horns of the altar that you were not a bit surprised.”

“And you would not perjure yourself—I’m not sure if the horns of the altar are binding as a form of oath; but anyhow, you would have been right. I did not fancy for a moment that my judgment as a prophetess was in jeopardy when Mr. Glenister took two or three games from you.”

“Then you watched it all?”

“Every stroke after the first couple of sets.”

“That was very nice of you. I kicked out Farmer Verrall before breakfast this morning.”

“What, the manager of your farm?”

“There was no help for it. I went over the place yesterday afternoon, and I saw with half an eye that he had allowed the whole farm to go to the dogs—to the greyhounds.”

“The greyhounds? You are coming on, Mr. Wingfield. We shall have you running a dairy farm yourself and taking away our bread and butter—certainly the butter—if we don’t look out.”

That was the sum of their conversation before the alert official had separated them, dragging him off to play in the M.D.s and get ignominiously beaten, for which he had apologized most humbly to his partner, and she went away affirming that he was a very nice man, only it was a pity he didn’t practise more. But she was careful not to let a whisper of this reach the ears of their successful opponents; she was not sure that they would not say that it was her silly play that had lost the game.

He had manoeuvred to get close to her at lunch, but in this he was not very successful. She was with the Gainsforth set, and they hadn’t invited him to their table; but afterwards he had managed to beat to windward of the party and to sail down upon her at the right moment. Unfortunately it was only for a moment that he was allowed to be beside her. He had only time to say, “I want to have a long talk with you,” and to hear her answer “You will find me a most appreciative listener, Mr. Wingfield,” when Lady Cynthia carried her off in one direction and the alert official carried him off in another to play a single. When he had beaten his man and set out to look for her, he saw that she was between Lady Gainsforth and another watching a paltry match in which Lady Cynthia was doing some effective work with a partner who tried to poach every ball that came to her.

He had strolled away, and had passed a dim halfhour by the side of Rosa Caffyn, who presented him to her mother, and her mother had asked him if he did not think Miss Wadhurst was looking extremely well, considering all that she had come through, poor thing! and she feared that a good many people would say that it was in rather doubtful taste for her to appear in a public place and not in mourning, though her husband had been dead scarcely more than two months; and he had replied that she had the doubtful taste to refrain from that form of etiquette known as hypocrisy; and Rosa had clapped her hands, crying “Bravo! That’s what I have said all along.”

His thoughts went over all the ground that he traversed during the day. It was when he was motoring to the Manor that he had made up his mind to mention her name to his mother, and she had replied to him. And what then?

What then?

That was the question which remained to be answered by himself to himself.

Why was he taking so much trouble to bring her and his mother together? Was it in order to give his mother the privilege of another acquaintance? or was he anxious to show Priscilla how charming a mother was his?

He had gone out upon the terrace with his cigar when his mother had left him, and now he sat in the long chair among some very well-disposed cushions. It was a night that lent itself with all the seductiveness of an English June, not to thought, but to feeling. One could feel the earth throbbing with the sensuousness of the season, although the stars of that summer night were but feebly palpitating out of the faint mystery of their grey-blue canopy. He had started thinking, but he was soon compelled to relinquish it in favour of feeling.

“If she were but sitting in that other chair—nay, why the other chair? Why should there not be only one chair between us?” He fancied her sitting where he sat, her head among the cushions—oh, that perfect head, with its glory of hair, shining like some of the embroidery of that satin cushion at his shoulder! He pulled up the pillow and put his cheek close to it. Oh, if only she were there! He would sit on the rest for her feet, and hold them in his hands and put his face down upon the arch of their instep. He had seen her feet that day when she had been watching the game, by the side of her friends, and he knew what they would be like to kiss. And then he would kneel by the side of the chair and put his head down to the cushion that was below hers, so that their faces—their lips—should not be far apart—not further apart than a finger’s breadth—sometimes not even so far.

And they would be silent together, drinking deep of the delight of each other’s silence. For what would they have to talk about on such a night as this?

And while he sat there, abandoning himself to the abandonment of Nature—that glorious Nature whose passionate heart was beating in everything under the stars of this June night—a nightingale began to sing out of the darkness of the shrubbery. He listened to it, feeling that that singing was the most complete expression of the passion of June.

But the incompleteness of his life—sitting there alone, full of that longing which the nightingale could so interpret! Why was she not here beside him—in his arms?

A window was being opened in one of the rooms above where he sat. Why was not that the window of her room? Why was it not opened to let her speak out to him—to whisper to him that she was there—waiting for him—waiting for him? He was a sane man under the influence of a pure passion—a passion whose chief property it is to stimulate the imagination even of the unimaginative; and every sound that he heard breaking the silence of this exquisite summer night had this effect upon him. He felt that he could not live without her. He had fallen into such a condition of thinking about her as made it impossible for him to weigh in connection with her such considerations as prudence, propriety and Mrs. Grundy; all that he knew, or was capable of knowing, was that he loved her, and that he wanted her to be with him always—he loved her and nothing else in the world; he was incapable of loving anything else in the world. She absorbed all the love of which he was capable. He felt that he should be deserving of the fate of Ananias and Sapphira his wife if he had kept back any of his possessions of love from her to bestow upon some one else. He cared nothing for anything in the heaven above or the earth beneath, or the waters that are under the earth, apart from her; but with her he felt that he loved them all!

This was the condition of the man who had never in his life been involved in an affair in which love played any but the most subordinate part. He had had his chances, as most men who have lived for nearly thirty years with no recognized occupation usually have. If he had caused the worldly mothers of eligible daughters (and too many of them) who were aware of his prospects, to hold him in contempt, he had at the same time caused the husbands of uncertain wives no uneasiness whatever He had had his little episodes, of course—those patches of pattern which go so far to relieve the fabric of a man’s life from monotony; but, to continue the simile, this pattern had not been printed in fast colours; it had not stood the test of time or cold water, but had faded out of his life, leaving scarcely a trace behind. He had never believed himself to be capable of rising to the dizzy heights of such a passion as this in whose grasp he felt himself, high above the earth and all earthly considerations. He was astonished at first when he found himself walking about the turf of the tennis ground in order to catch a glimpse of her—detesting the play, and so making it pretty hot for his opponents because it stood between her and himself; cursing the nice people who had found her so nice that they took care to keep her near themselves; and at last leaving the ground in sheer despair of being able to find her alone, so that he could sit beside her and watch her face, or the exquisite lines of her figure down to her fairy feet which he wanted to kiss.

He had driven to his home at something in excess of the legal maximum, hating her (as he thought—the most solid proof of his love for her) and hating himself for being such a fool as he felt himself to be.

The necessity for strategy in talking to his mother helped to bring him within the range of ordinary well-ordered life once more, and he had ridden his soul on the curb, so to speak, ever since; but now his mother had gone to bed, and here he was stretched at full length on his chair, having abandoned himself to his passion—thrown out every ounce of ballast in order that he might get a little nearer to the stars that were as soft as pearls above him.

He had ceased to be astonished at himself. He had reached that rarer atmosphere where the conditions of life are altogether different from those that prevail on lower levels, and where extravagance of thought is simply the result of breathing the air. His intoxication took the form of feeling that he was on the brink of a great happiness—that he was a king on the eve of a great victory—that he was so considerable a person in the world that he could carry out with a high hand every purpose in life. In his heart was all the swagger of those braggart warriors strutting about in armour and feathers on the walls of Troy or beneath them.

And in this condition of intoxication and its consequent hallucination he remained until the stars of the one hour of the summer night waxed paler than pearls in the exquisite dawn of the summer day.

The nightingale that had been singing in the early night had long ago become hushed. From a distant meadow there came the sound of the unmelodious corncrake. There was a little cheeping and rustling among the ivy of the walls, and then came a blackbird’s syrupy contralto from among the laurels of the shrubbery, and far away the delicious liquid ripples of a lark—two larks—three—the pearly air was thrilling with the melody of larks and with the flutings of thrushes, and the cooings of the wood pigeons, long before the sultans of the farmyards sent forth their challenges to be passed on and on like the ripple on a lake, until the last could be but faintly heard coming from the height of the Downs.

He sat there listening to everything, and scarcely conscious of the melting of the night into the dawn. There had been no darkness at any time of that June night, and the dawn was only like all the pearls of the sky melting in the liquid air.

At last he got up from his seat and walked to the balustrade of the terrace, looking forth over the white mists that curled and rose from the lawns and the meadows beneath. He felt that his new day had arisen for him. He went upstairs to his room, and when he had got into bed, he was asleep within five minutes.

It so happened, however, that the room in which his mother slept was just opposite to his on the same corridor, and even the slight sound that he made closing his door was enough to awaken her. She could then hear the sound of his swinging back the curtains which the careful housemaids invariably drew across his windows when they were turning down the counterpane; and then she knew that he must just have come upstairs. Her room was quite light, so that she could see the hour shown by the little bracket clock. It was five minutes past two.

So he had passed the four hours that elapsed since they had parted, sitting alone in the empty room! (She knew nothing of his having gone out upon the terrace.)

Her knowledge of this circumstance told her a great deal more of his condition than she could have learned from his own lips had he felt inclined to confess to her all that was in his heart.

It was true, then—the inference that she had drawn from his guarded words respecting the young woman was correct. It was on her account he had made up his mind that there was no place like home.

The mother was in great distress for some time. She shed some tears, but not many, for she reflected that at least a year must elapse before this young widow—for she was a widow, whatever sophists might say—could make another matrimonial venture, and what may not happen within a year?

This reflection comforted her, and so did the thought:

“After all, I have not seen her yet.”

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