Chapter XLI. The Living
 

This winter the Newthorpes spent abroad. Mr. Newthorpe was in very doubtful health when he went to Ullswater, just before Egremont's return to England, and by the end of the autumn his condition was such as to cause a renewal of Annabel's former fears. On a quick decision, they departed for Cannes, and remained there till early in the following April.

'There's a sort of absurdity,' Mr. Newthorpe remarked, 'in living when you can think of nothing but how you're to save your life. Better have done with it, I think. It strikes me as an impiety, too, to go playing at hide-and-seek with the gods.'

They came back to Eastbourne, which, on the whole, seemed to suit the invalid during these summer months. He did little now but muse over a few favourite books and listen to his daughter's conversation. Comparatively a young man, his energies were spent, his life was behind him. To Annabel it was infinitely sorrowful to have observed this rapid process of decay. She could not be persuaded that the failure of his powers was anything more than temporary. But her father lost no opportunity of warning her that she deceived herself. He had his reasons for doing so.

His temper was perfect: his outlook on the world remained that of a genial pessimist, a type of man common enough in our day. He seemed to find a pleasure in urbanely mocking at his own futility.

'I am the sort of man,' he once said, 'of whom Tourgueneff would make an admirable study. There's tragedy in me, if you have the eyes to see it. I don't think any one can help feeling kindly towards me. I don't think any one can altogether despise me. Yet my life is a mere inefficacy.'

'You have had much enjoyment in your life, father,' Annabel replied, 'and enjoyment of the purest kind. In our age of the world I think that must be a sufficient content.'

'Why, there you've hit it, Bell. 'Tis the age. There's somebody else I know who had better take warning by me. But I think he has done.'

They were talking thus as they sat alone in one of the places of shelter on the Parade. Other people had departed on the serious business of dining; but the evening was beautiful, and these two were tempted to remain and watch the sea.

'You mean Mr. Egremont,' Annabel said.

'Yes. I wonder very much what he will be at my age. He won't be anything particular, of course.'

'No, I don't suppose he will do anything remarkable,' the girl assented impartially.

'Yet he might have done,' recommenced her father, with some annoyance, as if his remark had not elicited the answer he looked for. 'This mill-work of his I consider mere discipline. I should have thought two years of it enough; three certainly ought to be. A fourth, and he will never do anything else.'

'What else should he do?'

Mr. Newthorpe laughed a little.

'There's only one thing for such a fellow to do nowadays. Let him write something.'

'Write?' Annabel mused. 'Yes, I suppose there is nothing else. Yet he happens to have sufficient means.'

'Do you mean it for an epigram? Well, it will pass. True, there's the hardship of his position. There's nothing for him to do but to write, yet he is handicapped by his money. I should have done something worth the doing, if I had had to write for bread and cheese. Let him show that he has something in him, in spite of the fact that he has never gone without his dinner. Yes, but that would prove him an extraordinary man, and we agree that he is nothing of the kind.'

'Haven't you ever felt a sort of uneasy shame when you have heard of another acquaintance taking up the pen?'

'Of course I have. I've felt the same when I've heard of someone being born.'

'Suppose I announced to you that I was writing a novel?'

'I am a philosopher, Bell.'

'Precisely. It would be disagreeable to me if I heard that Mr. Egremont was writing a novel. If he published anything very good, it wouldn't trouble one so much after the event. I don't see why he should write. I think he'd better continue to give half his day to something practical, and the other half to the pleasures of a man of culture. It will preserve his balance.'

'Bella mia, you are greatly disillusioned for a young girl.'

'I don't feel that the term is applicable to me. I am disillusioned, father, because I am getting reasonably old.'

'You live too much alone.'

'I prefer it.'

Mr. Newthorpe seemed to be turning over a thought.

'I suppose,' he said at length, with a glance at his daughter, 'that what you have just said explains our friend's return to his oil-cloth.'

'Not entirely, I think.'

'H'm. You sent him about his business, however.

Annabel looked straight before her at the sea; her lips barely smiled.

'You are mistaken. He gave me no right to do so.'

'Oh? Then I have been on a wrong tack.'

'Shall we walk homewards?'

Towards the end of August, Mr. and Mrs. Dalmaine were at Eastbourne for a few days. Paula spent one hour with her cousin in private, no more. The two had drifted further apart than ever. But in that one hour Paula had matter enough for talk. There had been a General Election during the summer, and Mr. Dalmaine had victoriously retained his seat for Vauxhall. His wife could speak of nothing else.

'What I would have given if you could have seen me canvassing, Bell! Now I've found the one thing that I can do really well. I wish Parliaments were annual!'

'My dear Paula, what bas made you so misanthropic?'

'I don't understand. You know I never do understand your clever remarks, Bell; please speak quite simply, will you? Oh, but the canvassing! Of course I didn't get on with people's wives as well as with people themselves; women never do, you know. You should have heard me arguing questions with working men and shopkeepers! Mr. Dalmaine once told me I'd better keep out of politics, as I only made a bungle of it; but I've learnt a great deal since then. He admits now that I really do understand the main questions. Of course it's all his teaching. He puts things so clearly, you know. I suppose there's no one in the House who makes such clear speeches as he does.'

'The result of your work was very satisfactory.'

'Wasn't it! Fifteen hundred majority! Then we drove all about the borough, and I had to bow nicely to people who waved their hats and shouted. It was a new sensation; I think I never enjoyed anything so much in my life. He is enormously popular, my husband. And everybody says he is doing an enormous lot of good. You know, Bell, it was a mere chance that he isn't in the Ministry! His name was mentioned; we know it for a fact. There's no doubt whatever he'll be in next time, if the Liberal Government keeps up. It is so annoying that Parliaments generally last so long! Think what that will be, when he is a Minister! I shouldn't wonder if you come to see me some day in Downing Street, Bell.'

'I should be afraid, Paula.'

'Nonsense! Your husband will bring you. Don't you think Mr. Dalmaine's looking remarkably well? I'm so sorry I haven't got my little boy here for you to see. We've decided that he's to be Prime Minister! I hope you read Mr. Dalmaine's speeches, Bell?'

'Frequently.'

'That's good of you! He's thinking of publishing a volume of those that deal with factory legislation. You should have heard what they said about him, at the election time!'

Paula was still charming, but it must be confessed a trifle vulgarised. Formerly she had not been vulgar at all; at present one discerned unmistakably the influence of her husband, and of the world in which she lived. In person, she showed the matron somewhat prematurely; one saw that in another ten years she would be portly; her round fair face would become too round and too pinky. Mentally, she was at length formed, and to Mr. Dalmaine was due the credit of having formed her.

This gentleman did his kinsfolk the honour of calling upon them. He had grown a little stouter; he bore himself with conscious dignity; you saw that he had not much time, nor much attention, to bestow upon unpolitical people. He was suave and abrupt by turns; he used his hands freely in conversing. Mr. Newthorpe smiled much during the interview with him, and, a few hours later, when alone with Annabel, he suddenly exclaimed:

'What an ignorant pretentious numskull that fellow is!'

'Of whom do you speak?'

'Why, of Dalmaine, of course.'

'My dear father!--A philanthropist! One of the forces of the time!'

Mr. Newthorpe leaned back and laughed.

'Perfectly true,' he said presently. 'Whence we may arrive at certain conclusions with regard to mankind at large and our time in particular. That poor pretty girl! It's too bad.'

'She is happy.'

'True again. And it would be foolish to wish her miserable. Bell, let us join hands and go to the old ferryman's boat together.'

'It would cost me no pang, father. Still we will walk a little longer on the sea-shore.'

And whilst this conversation was going on, Mr. and Mrs. Dalmaine sat after dinner on the balcony of their hotel, talking occasionally. Dalmaine smoked a cigar: his eyes betrayed the pleasures of digestion and thought on high matters of State.

He said all at once:

'By-the-by, Lady Wigger is at the Queen's Hotel, I see. You will call to-morrow.'

'Lady Wigger? But really I don't think I can, dear,' Paula replied, timidly.

'Why not?'

'Why, you know she was so shockingly rude to me at the Huntleys' ball. You said it was abominable, yourself.'

'So it was, but you'd better call.'

'I'd much rather not.'

Dalmaine looked at her with Olympian surprise.

'But, my dear,' he said with suave firmness, 'I said that you had better call. The people must not be neglected; they will be useful. Do you understand me?'

'Yes, love.'

Paula was quiet for a few moments, then talked as brightly as ever. . . .

One day close upon the end of September, Mrs. Ormonde had to pay a visit to the little village of West Dean, which is some four miles distant from Eastbourne, inland and westward. Business of a domestic nature took her thither; she wished to visit a cottage for the purpose of seeing a girl whom she thought of engaging as a servant. The day was very beautiful; she asked the Newthorpes to accompany her on the drive. Mr. Newthorpe preferred to remain at home; Annabel accepted the invitation.

The road was uphill, until the level of the Downs was reached; then it went winding along, with fair stretches of scenery on either hand, between fields fragrant of Autumn, overhead the broad soft purple sky. First East Dean was passed, a few rustic houses nestling, as the name implies, in its gentle hollow. After that, another gradual ascent, and presently the carriage paused at a point of the road immediately above the village to which they were going.

The desire to stop was simultaneous in Mrs. Ormonde and her companion; their eyes rested on as sweet a bit of landscape as can be found in England, one of those scenes which are typical of the Southern countries. It was a broad valley, at the lowest point of which lay West Dean. The hamlet consists of very few houses, all so compactly grouped about the old church that from this distance it seemed as if the hand could cover them. The roofs were overgrown with lichen, yellow on slate, red on tiles. In the farmyards were haystacks with yellow conical coverings of thatch. And around all closed dense masses of chestnut foliage, the green just touched with gold. The little group of houses had mellowed with age; their guarded peacefulness was soothing to the eye and the spirit. Along the stretch of the hollow the land was parcelled into meadows and tilth of varied hue. Here was a great patch of warm grey soil, where horses were drawing the harrow; yonder the same work was being done by sleek black oxen. Where there was pasture, its chalky-brown colour told of the nature of the earth which produced it. A vast oblong running right athwart the far side of the valley had just been strewn with loam; it was the darkest purple. The bright yellow of the 'kelk' spread in several directions; and here and there rose thin wreaths of white smoke, where a pile of uprooted couch-grass was burning; the scent was borne hither by a breeze that could be scarcely felt.

The clock of the old church struck four.

'A kindness, Mrs. Ormonde!' said Annabel. 'Let me stay here whilst you drive down into the village. I don't wish to see the people there just now. To sit here and look down on that picture will do me good.'

'By all means. But I dare say I shall be half an hour. It will take ten minutes to drive down.'

'Never mind. I shall sit here on the bank, and enjoy myself.'

Now it happened that on this same September day a young man left Brighton and started to walk eastward along the coast. He had come into Brighton from London the evening before, having to pay a visit to the family of an acquaintance of his who had recently died in Pennsylvania, and who, when dying, had asked him to perform this office on his return to England. He was no stranger to Brighton; he knew that, if one is obliged to visit the place, it is well to be there under cover of the night and to depart as speedily as possible from amid its vulgar hideousness. So, not later than eight on the following morning, he had left the abomination behind him, and was approaching Rottingdean.

His destination was Eastbourne; the thought of going thither on foot came to him as he glanced at a map of the coast whilst at breakfast. The weather was perfect, and the walk would be full of interest.

One would have said that he had a mind very free from care. For the most part he stepped on at a good round pace, observing well; sometimes he paused, as if merely to enjoy the air. He was in excellent health; he smiled readily.

At Rottingdean he lingered for awhile. A soft mist hung all around; sky and sea were of a delicate blurred blue-grey, the former mottled in places. The sun was not visible, but its light lay in one long gleaming line out on the level water; beyond, all was vapour-veiled. There were no breakers; now and then a larger ripple than usual splashed on the beach, and that was the only sound the sea gave. It was full tide; the water at the foot of the cliffs was of a wonderful green, pellucid, delicate, through which the chalk was visible, with dark masses of weed here and there. Swallows in great numbers flew about the edge, and thistle-down floated everywhere. From the fields came a tinkle of sheep-bells.

The pedestrian sighed when he rose to continue his progress. It was noticeable that, as he went on, he lost something of his cheerfulness of manner; probably the early rising and the first taste of exercise had had their effect upon him, and now he was returning to his more wonted self. The autumn air, the sun-stained mist, the silent sea, would naturally incline to pensiveness one who knew that mood.

The air was unimaginably calm; the thistle-down gave proof that only the faintest breath was stirring. On the Downs beyond Rottingdean lay two or three bird-catchers, prone as they watched the semicircle of call-birds in cages, and held their hand on the string which closed the nets. The young man spoke a few words with one of these, curious about his craft.

He came down upon Newhaven, and halted in the town for refreshment; then, having loitered a little to look at the shipping, he climbed the opposite side of the valley, and made his way as far as Seaford. Thence another climb, and a bend inland, for the next indentation of the coast was Cuckmere Haven, and the water could only be crossed at some distance from the sea. The country through which the Cuckmere flowed had a melancholy picturesqueness. It was a great reach of level meadows, very marshy, with red-brown rushes growing in every ditch, and low trees in places, their trunks wrapped in bright yellow lichen; nor only their trunks, but the very smallest of their twigs was so clad. All over the flats were cows pasturing, black cows, contrasting with flocks of white sheep, which were gathered together, bleating. The coarse grass was sun-scorched; the slope of the Downs on either side showed the customary chalky green. The mist had now all but dispersed, yet there was still only blurred sunshine. Rooks hovered beneath the sky, heavily, lazily, and uttered their long caws.

The Cuckmere was crossed, and another ascent began. The sea was now hidden; the road would run inland, cutting off the great angle made by Beachy Head. The pedestrian had made notes of his track; he knew that he was now approaching a village called West Dean. He had lingered by the Cuckmere; now he braced himself. And he came in sight of West Dean as the church clock struck four.

He wished now to make speed to Eastbourne, but the loveliness of the hollow above which the road ran perforce checked him; he paced forward very slowly, his eyes bent upon the hamlet. Something moved, near to him. He looked round. A lady was standing in the road, and, of all strange things, a lady of whom at that moment he was thinking.

'By what inconceivable chance does this happen, Miss Newthorpe?' he said, taking her offered hand.

'Surely the question would come with even more force from me,' Annabel made answer. 'You might have presumed me to be in England, Mr. Egremont; I, on the other hand, certainly imagined that you were beyond the Atlantic.'

'I have been in England a day or two.'

'But here? Looking down upon West Dean?'

'I have walked from Brighton--one of the most delightful walks I ever took.'

'A long one, surely. I am waiting for Mrs. Ormonde. She is with the carriage below. I chose to wait here, to feast my eyes.'

Both turned again to the picture. The two did not sort ill together. Annabel was very womanly, of fair, thoughtful countenance, and she stood with no less grace, though maturer, than by the ripples of Ullswater, four years ago. She had the visage of a woman whose intellect is highly trained, a face sensitive to every note of the soul's music, yet impressed with the sober consciousness which comes of self-study and experience. A woman, one would have said, who could act as nobly as she could speak, yet who would prefer both to live and to express herself in a minor key. And Egremont was not unlike her in some essential points. The turn for irony was more pronounced on his features, yet he had the eyes of an idealist. He, too, would choose restraint in preference to outbreak of emotion: he too could be forcible if occasion of sufficient pressure lay upon him. And the probability remained, that both one and the other would choose a path of life where there was small risk of their stronger faculties being demanded.

They talked of the landscape, of that exclusively, until Mrs. Ormonde's carriage was seen reascending the hill. Then they became silent, and stood so as their common friend drew near. Her astonishment was not slight, but she gave it only momentary expression, then passed on to general talk.

'I always regard you as reasonably emancipated, Annabel,' she said, 'but none the less I felt a certain surprise in noticing you intimately conversing with a chance wayfarer. Mr. Egremont, be good enough to seat yourself opposite to us.'

They drove back to Eastbourne. All conversed on the way with as much ease as if they had this afternoon set forth in company from The Chestnuts.

'This is what, at school, we used to call a 'lift,'' said Egremont.

'A welcome one, too, I should think,' Mrs. Ormonde replied. 'But you always calculated distances by 'walks,' I remember, when others measure by the carriage or the railway. Annabel, you too are an excellent walker; you have often brought me to extremities in the lakes, though I wouldn't confess it. And pray, Mr. Egremont, for whom was your visit intended? Shall I put you down at Mr. Newthorpe's door, or had you my humble house in view?'

'It is natural to me to count upon The Chestnuts as a place of rest, at all events,' Walter replied. 'I should not have ventured to disturb Mr. Newthorpe this evening.'

'We will wait at the door, Mrs. Ormonde,' put in Annabel. 'Father will come out as he always does.'

Accordingly the carriage was stopped at the Newthorpes' house, and, as Annabel had predicted, her father sauntered forth.

'Ah, how do you do, Egremont?' he said, after a scarcely appreciable hesitation, giving his hand with perfect self-possession. 'Turned up on the road, have you?'

The ladies laughed. Annabel left the carriage, and the other two drove on to The Chestnuts.

Egremont dined and spent the evening with Mrs. Ormonde. Their conversation was long and intimate, yet it was some time before reference was made to the subject both had most distinctly in mind.

'I went to see Grail as soon as I got to London,' Egremont said at length.

'I am glad of that. But how did you know where to find him?'

'They gave me his address at the old house. He seems comfortably lodged with his friend Ackroyd. Mrs. Ackroyd opened the door to me; of course I didn't know her, and she wouldn't know me; Grail told me who it was afterwards. I could recall no likeness to her sister.'

'There is very little. The poor girl is in calm water at last, I hope. She was to have been married on Midsummer Day, and, the night before, Mrs. Grail died; so they put it off. And what of Mr. Grail?'

'He behaved admirably to me; he did not let me feel for a moment that I excited any trouble in his memory.'

'But does his life seem bitter to him--his employment, I mean?'

'I can't think he finds it so. He spoke very frankly, and assured me that he has all the leisure time he cared to use. He says he is not so eager after knowledge as formerly; it is enough for him to read the books he likes. I went with the intention of asking him to let me be of some use, if I could. But it was a delicate matter, in any case, and I found that he understood me without plain speech: he conveyed his answer distinctly enough. No, I sincerely think that he has reached that point of resignation at which a man dreads to be disturbed. He spoke with emotion of Mrs. Ackroyd; she is invaluable to him, I saw.'

'She is a true-hearted woman.'

Egremont let a minute pass, then said:

'You will show me the portrait?'

'Certainly. It hangs in my bedroom; I will fetch it.'

She went and returned quickly, carrying a red crayon drawing framed in plain oak. In the corner was a well-known signature, that of one of the few living artists to whom one would appeal with confidence for the execution of a task such as this, a man whom success has not vulgarised, and who is still of opinion that the true artist will oftener find his inspiration in a London garret than amid the banality of the plutocrat's drawing-room. The work was of course masterly in execution; it was no less admirable as a portrait. In those few lines of chalk, Thyrza lived. He had divined the secret of the girl's soul, that gift of passionate imagination which in her early years sunk her in hour-long reverie, and later burned her life away. The mood embodied was one so characteristic of Thyrza that one marvelled at the insight which had evoked it from a dead face; she was not happy, she was net downcast; her eyes saw something, something which stirred her being, something for which she yearned, passionately, yet with knowledge that it was for ever forbidden to her. A face of infinite pathos, which drew tears to the eyes, yet was unutterably sweet to gaze upon.

Holding the picture, Egremont turned to his companion, and said in a subdued voice

'This was Thyrza?'

'Her very self.'

'He knew her story?'

'The bare facts, of course without names, without details. He would take nothing for the original drawing--Lydia has it--and nothing for this copy which he made me. He said I had done him a great kindness.'

'Oh, if one could be a man like that!'

The words answered to his thoughts, yet implied something more than their plain meaning. They uttered more than one regret, more than one aspiration.

'Let me take it, Walter.'

'One moment!--This was Thyrza?'

'Let me take it.'

'Tell me--has Miss Newthorpe seen it?'

'Yes.'

Mrs. Ormonde bore the picture away. In a few minutes Egremont took his leave, and went to the hotel to which he had sent his travelling-bag from Brighton. It was long before he slept. He was thinking of a night a little more than a year ago, when he had walked by the shore and held debate with himself. . . .

On the following evening, shortly before sunset, Annabel and he walked on the short dry grass of the Down that rises to Beachy Head. There had been another day of supreme tranquillity, of blurred sunshine, of soothing autumnal warmth. And this was the crowning hour. The mist had drifted from the land and the sea; as the two continued their ascent, the view became lovelier. They regarded it, but spoke of other things.

'I have no wish to go back to America,' Egremont was saying, 'but, if I do, I shall very likely settle there for good. I don't think I am ideally adapted to a pursuit of that kind, but habit makes it quite tolerable.'

'What should you do if you remained in England?' Annabel asked, her voice implying no more than friendly interest.

'I might say that I don't know, but it wouldn't be true. I know well enough I should live the life of a student, and of a man who looks on contemporary things with an artistic interest, though he lacks the artistic power to use his observations. In time I should marry. I should have pleasure in my house, should make it as beautiful as might be, should gather a very few friends about me. I should not become morbid; the danger of that is over. Every opportunity I saw of helping those less fortunate than myself I should gladly seize; it is not impossible that I might seek opportunities, that I might found some institution--of quite commonplace aims, be assured. For instance, I should like to see other Homes like Mrs. Ormonde's; many women could conduct them, if the means were supplied. And so on.'

'Yes, that is all very reasonable. It lies with yourself to decide whether you might not have a breezier existence in America.'

'True. But not with myself to decide whether I remain here or go back again. I ask you to help me in determining that.'

Annabel stood as one who reflects gravely yet collectedly. Egremont fixed his eyes upon her, until she looked at him then his gaze questioned silently.

'Let us understand each other,' said Annabel. 'Do you say this because of anything that has been in the past?'

'Not because of it; in continuance of it.'

'Yet we are both very different from what we were when that happened.'

'Both, I think. I do not speak now as I did then, yet the wish I have is far more real.'

They were more than half-way up the ascent; it was after sunset, and the mood of the season was changing.

The plain of Pevensey lay like a vision of fairyland, the colouring indescribably delicate, unreal; bands of dark green alternated with the palest and most translucent emeralds. The long stretch of the coast was a faint outline, yet so clear that every tongue of sand, every smallest headland was distinguishable. The sky that rested on the eastern semicircle of horizon was rather neutral tint than blue, and in it hung long clouds of the colour of faded daffodils. A glance overhead gave the reason of this wondrous effect of light; there, and away to the west, brooded a vast black storm-cloud, ragged at the edge, yet seeming motionless; the western sea was very night, its gloom intensified by one slip of silver shimmer, wherein a sail was revealed. The hillside immediately in front of those who stood here was so deeply shadowed that its contrast threw the vision of unearthly light into distance immeasurable. A wind was rising, but, though its low whistling sound was very audible, it seemed to be in the upper air; here scarcely a breath was felt.

Annabel said:

'Have you seen Thyrza's portrait?

'Yes.'

She raised her eyes; they were sad, compassionate, yet smiled.

'She could not have lived. But you are conscious now of what that face means?'

'I know nothing of her history from the day when I last saw her, except the mere outward circumstances.'

'Nor do I. But I saw her once, here, and I have seen her portrait. The crisis of your life was there. There was your one great opportunity, and you let it pass. She could not have lived; but that is no matter. You were tried, Mr. Egremont, and found Wanting.'

'Her love for me did not continue. It was already too late at the end of those two years.

'Was it?'

'What secret knowledge have you?'

'None whatever, as you mean it. But it was not too late.'

They were silent. And as they stood thus the sky was again transformed. A steady yet soft wind from the northwest was propelling the great black cloud seaward, over to France; it moved in a solid mass, its ragged edges little by little broken off, its bulk detached from the night which lay behind it. And in the sky which it disclosed rose as it were a pale dawn, the restored twilight. Thereamid glimmered the pole-star.

Eastward on the coast, at the far end of Pevensey Bay, the lights of Hastings began to twinkle; out at sea was visible a single gleam, appearing and disappearing, the lightship on the Sovereign Shoals.

Annabel continued speaking:

'We have both missed something, something that will never again he offered us. When you asked me to be your wife, four years ago at Ullswater, I did not love you. I admired you; I liked you; it would have been very possible to me to marry you. But I had my ideal of love, and I hoped to give my husband something more than I felt for you at that time. A year after, I loved you. I suffered when you were suffering. I was envious of the love you gave to another woman, and I said to myself that the moment I hoped for had come only in vain. Since then I have changed more than I changed in those twelve months. I am not in love with you now; I can talk of these things without a flutter of the pulse. Is it not true?'

She held her hand to him, baring the wrist. Egremont retained the hand in both his own.

'I can tell you, you see,' she went on, 'what I know to be the truth, that you missed the great opportunity of your life when you abandoned Thyrza. Her love would have made of you what mine never could, even though she herself had been taken from you very soon. I can tell you the mere truth, you see. Dare you still ask for me?'

'I don't ask, Annabel. I have your hand and I keep it.'

'You may. I don't think I should ever give it to any other man.'

The night was thickening about them.

'Shall we go up to the Head?' Egremont asked.

'No higher.'

She said it with a significant look, and he understood her.