“Too grand

She was surprised at what had happened to her, thought a great deal
about it, magnifying or minimising it according to her mood. But in a
way the incident drew her more definitely toward Gabriel Stanton. She
began to admit she was in love with him, to do as he had bidden her,
“let herself go.” In imagination at least. Had she been a psychological
instead of an epigrammatic novelist, she would have understood herself
better. To me, writing her story at this headlong pace, it was
nevertheless all quite clear. I had not to linger to find out why she
did this or that, what spirit moved her. I knew all the time, for
although none of my own novels ever had the success of “The Dangerous
Age” I knew more about what the author wrote there than he did himself,
much more. The Dangerous Age comes to a woman at all periods. With
Margaret Capel it was seven years after her marriage and over six from
the time when she had left her husband. She was impulsive, and for all
her introspective egotism, most pitifully ignorant of herself and her
emotional capacity. Fortunately Gabriel Stanton was almost as ignorant
as she. But, at least after that Sunday evening, there was no more talk
of friendship between them. There was coquetting on her side and some
obtuseness on his. Rare flashes of understanding as well, and on her
part deepening feeling under a light and varying surface.

She was rarely twice alike, often she merely acted, thinking of herself
as a strange character in a drama. She was genuinely uncertain of
herself. Her love flamed wild sometimes. Then she would pull herself up
and remember that something like this she had felt once before, and it
had proved a will o’ the wisp over a bog. She wanted to walk warily.

“Supposing I am wrong again this time?” she asked him once with wide
eyes.

“You are not. This is real. Trust me, trust yourself.” She liked to
nestle in the shelter of his arm, to feel his lips on her hair, to
torment and adore him. The week-ends seemed very short; the week-days
long. Week-days during which she was restless and excitable, and Peter
Kennedy and his bag of tricks, medical tricks, often in request. She was
very capricious with Peter, calling him ignorant, and a country yokel.
As a companion he compared very badly with Gabriel. As an emotional
machine he was easier to play upon. She spared him nothing, he was her
whipping-boy. Watching him one noticed that he grew quieter, improved in
many ways as she secured more and more mastery over him. When there were
scenes now they were of her and not of his making. He was wax in her
hands, plastic to her moulding. Sometimes she was sorry for him and a
little ashamed of herself. Then she gave him a music lesson or lectured
him gravely on his shortcomings. But from first to last he was nothing
to her but a stop-gap. His devotion had the smallest of reward.

The weeks went by. Gabriel Stanton coming and going, staying always at
the local hotel. Ever more secure in his position with her, but never
taking advantage of it.

“He is naturally of a cold nature,” she argued. And once her confidant
was Peter Kennedy and she compared the two of them. This was in early
days, before her treatment of Peter had subdued him.

“What’s he afraid of?” Peter asked brusquely.

“Until the decree has been made absolute I am not free.”

“So what he is afraid of is the King’s Proctor?”

“Don’t.”

“His precious respectability, the great house of Stanton.”

“You take it all wrong, you don’t understand. How should you?”

“Don’t I? I wish I’d half his chances.”

“You are really not in the same category of men. It is banal—I have
never fully realised the value of a banal phrase before, but you are
‘not fit to wipe the mud off his shoes.’”

“Because I am a country doctor.”

“Because you are—Peter Kennedy.”

She knew then how comparatively thick-skinned he was; that if he had
some sense or senses _in excelsis_, in others he was lacking, altogether
lacking and unconscious. It is not paradoxical but plain that the more
she saw of Gabriel Stanton the less heed she took of Peter Kennedy’s
freedom of speech and ways. The two men were as apart as the poles, that
they both adored her proved nothing but her undoubted charm. She was not
quite looking forward, like Gabriel Stanton, through the “decree
absolute” to marriage. She lived in the immediate present; in the
Saturdays to Mondays when she tortured Gabriel Stanton and in a way was
tortured by him. For she had never met so fine a brain, nor honour and
simplicity so clean and clear, and she was upborne by and with him. And
the Tuesdays to Fridays she had attacks or crises of the nerves and
Kennedy alternately doctored and clumsily courted her.

There came a time when she wrote and asked Gabriel to bring his sister
next time he came, and that both of them should stay in the house with
her, at Carbies. It was clear, if it had not been put into actual words,
that they would marry as soon as she was free, and she thought it would
please him that she should recognise the position.

“I want to know her. Tell her I am a friend of yours who is interested
in Christian Science, then she won’t think it strange that I should
invite her here.” She was not frank enough to say “since she is to be my
sister-in-law.”

Gabriel, nevertheless, was translated when the letter came, and answered
it rapturously. The invitation to his sister seemed to admit his
footing, to make the future more definite and domestic.

But if you want me to stay away I will stay away. Remember it is
your wishes not mine that count. I tired you, perhaps? Did I tire
you? God bless you!

I can never tell you half that is in my heart. You are an angel of
goodness, and I am on my knees before you all the time. I will tell
Anne as little as possible until you give me permission, yet I am
sure she must guess the rest. My voice alters when I speak of you,
although I try to keep it even and calm. I went to her when I got
your letter. “A friend of mine wants to know you.” I began as
absurdly as that. She looked at me in surprise, and I went on
hurriedly, “She wants you to go down with me to her house in
Pineland at the end of the week….”

“You have been there before?” she asked suspiciously, sharply. “Is
that where you have been each week lately?”

“Yes,” I answered, priding myself that I did not go on to tell her
each week I entered Paradise, lingered there a little while. She
began to question, probe me. Were you old, young, beautiful; the
questions poured forth. Somehow or other, in the end these questions
froze and silenced me. I could not tell her, you were you! She would
not have understood. Nor was I able to satisfy her completely on any
point. I could not describe you, felt myself stammering like a
schoolboy over the colour of your hair, your eyes. How could I say
to her “This sweet lady who invites you to make her acquaintance is
just perfection, no more nor less; all compound of fire and dew,
made composite and credible with genius”? As for giving a
description of you, it would need a poet and a painter working
together, and in the end they would give up the task in despair. I
did not tell Anne this.

She is now reviewing her wardrobe. And I … I am reviewing
nothing … past definite thought. Do you know that when I left you
on Sunday I feared that I had vexed or disappointed you again? You
seemed to me a little cold—constrained. Monday and Tuesday I have
examined and cross-examined myself—suffered. My whole life is
yours—but if I fail to please you! I was in a hotel in the country
once, when a man was brought in from the football field, very badly
hurt. His eyes were shut, his face agonised; he moaned, for all his
fortitude. There was a doctor in the crowd that accompanied him, who
gave what seemed to me a strange order: “Put him in a hot bath, just
as he is, don’t delay a moment; don’t wait to undress him.” My own
bath was just prepared and I proffered it. They lowered him in. He
was a fine big fellow, but suffering beyond self-restraint. Within a
minute of the water reaching him, clothes on and everything, he left
off moaning. His face grew calm. “My God! I am in heaven!” he
exclaimed.

“The relief must have been exquisite. I thought of the incident when
your letter came, when I had submerged myself in it. I had forgotten
it for years, but remembered it then. I too had passed in one moment
from exquisite agony to a most wonderful calm. Dear love, how can I
thank you! I am not going to try. Anne and I will come by the train
arriving at Pineland at 4.52. I will not ask your kindness for her;
I see you diffusing it. She will be grateful, and the form her
gratitude will take will be the endeavour to convert you to
Christian Science. My sweet darling, you will listen gravely,
patiently. And I shall know it will be for me. I have done nothing
to deserve you, am nothing, only your worshipper. Some day perhaps
you will let me do something for you. Dear heart, I love you, love
you, love you, however I write.”

G. S.

Friday, Margaret decided it was better that she should entertain her
guests alone. She had to learn the idiosyncrasies of this poor sister of
her lover’s, to acclimatise herself to a new atmosphere between herself
and Gabriel. She invited Peter Kennedy to dine with them on Saturday,
but bade him not to speak lightly of Christian Science.

“What’s the game?” he asked her.

“I think it is probably some form of mesmerism; I don’t quite know.
Anyway Mr. Stanton’s sister is an invalid and thinks Christian Science
has relieved her. You are not to laugh at or argue with her.”

“I am to dine here and talk to her, I suppose, whilst you and that
fellow ogle and make love to each other.” She turned a cold shoulder to
him.

“I withdraw my invitation, you need not come at all.”

“Of course I shall come. And what is the name of the thing? Christian
Science? I’ll get it up. You know I’d do anything on earth you asked me,
though you treat me like a dog.”

“At least you snatch an occasional bone,” she smiled as he mumbled her
hand.

Margaret sent for Mary Baker Eddy’s “Science and Health; with a Key to
the Scriptures,” and spent the emptiest two hours she could remember in
trying to master the viewpoint of the book, the essential dogma. Failing
completely she flung it to Peter Kennedy, who read aloud to her sentence
after sentence as illuminative as these:

“‘_Destructive electricity is not the offspring of infinite good._’ Who
the devil said it was?”

“Hush, go on. There must be something more in it than that.” He turned
to the title-page, “‘Printed and published at Earlswood’? No, my
mistake—at Boston. ‘_Christian Science rationally explains that all
other pathological methods are the fruits of human faith in matter, in
the working, not of spirit, but of the fleshly mind, which must yield to
Science._’ Don’t knit your brows. What’s the good of swotting at it?
Let’s say Abracadabra to her and see what happens.”

“What an indolent man you are. Is that the way you worked at your
examination?”

“I qualified.”

“I suppose that was the height of your ambition?”

“You don’t give a man much encouragement to be ambitious.”

“But this was before I knew you.”

“Don’t you believe it. I never lived at all before you knew me.”

“Absurd boy!”

“I’m getting on for thirty.”

“You can’t expect me to remember it whilst you behave as if you were
seventeen. Take the book up again, let us give it an honest trial.”

He read on obediently, and she listened with a real desire for
instruction. Then all at once she put her fingers in her ears and called
a halt.

“That will do. Ring for tea, I can’t listen to any more….”

He went on nevertheless: “‘_Mind is not the author of Matter._’ I say,
this is jolly good. You can read it the other way too. ‘_Matter is not
the author of mind. There is no matter … put matter under the foot of
mind._’ Put Mrs. Eddy under the foot of a militant suffragette. Oh! I
say … listen to this….”

“No, I won’t, not to another word. Poor Gabriel….” He threw the book
away.

“Always that damned fellow!” he said.

When Friday came and the house had been swept and garnished Margaret
drove to the station to receive her guests. The room prepared for Anne
was on the same corridor as her own, facing south, and with a balcony.
Margaret herself had seen to all the little details for her comfort. A
big sofa and easy-chair, pen and ink and paper, the latest novel:
flowers on the mantelpiece and dressing-table, a filled biscuit box, and
small spirit stand. Then, more slowly, she had gone into the little
suite prepared for Gabriel, bedroom and bathroom, no balcony, but a wide
window. She only stayed a moment, she did not give a thought to his
little comforts. She was out of the room again quickly.

She arrived late at the station, and Gabriel was already on the
platform; he never had the same happy certainty as the first time, nor
knew how she would greet him. The first impression she had of Anne was
of a little old woman, bent-backed, fussing about the luggage, about
some bag after which she enquired repeatedly and excitedly, of whose
safety she could not be assured until Gabriel produced it to her from
among the others already on the platform.

“Shall we go on and leave him to follow with the luggage?” Margaret
asked.

“Oh, no, no, I couldn’t think of moving until it is found. So
tiresome….”

“I am sure you are tired after your journey.”

“I don’t know what it is to be tired since I have taken up Christian
Science. You know we are never tired unless we think we are,” Anne said,
when they were in the carriage, bowling along the good road toward the
reddening glow of the sunset. Margaret and Gabriel, sitting opposite,
but not facing each other—embarrassed, shy with the memory of their last
parting,—were glad of this intervening person who chattered of her
non-fatigue, the essential bag, and the number of things she had had to
see to before she left home. All the way from Pineland station to the
crunching gravel path at Carbies Anne talked and they made a feint of
listening to her. The feeling between them was a great height. They were
almost glad of her presence, of her fretting small talk. Margaret said
afterwards she felt damp and deluged with it, properly subdued. “I felt
as if I had come all out of curl,” she told him. “No wonder you speak so
little, are reserved.”

“I am not reserved with you,” he answered.

“I think sometimes that you are.”

“There is not a corner or cranny of my mind I should not wish you to
explore if it interested you,” he replied passionately.

All that evening Anne’s volubility never failed. She was of the type of
woman, domestic and frequent, who can talk for hours without succeeding
in saying anything. Most of it seemed simultaneous! Anne Stanton, who
was ten years older than Gabriel and had an idea that she “managed” him,
prided herself also on her good social quality and capacity for carrying
off a situation. She thought of this invitation and introduction to the
young lady with whom her brother had evidently fallen in love as “a
situation” and she felt herself of immense importance in it. Gabriel
must have kept his secret better than he knew. She believed that he was
seeking her opinion of his choice, that the decision, if there was to be
a decision, rested with her. One must do her the justice to admit that
she did not give a thought to any possible alteration in her own
position. She had always lived with Gabriel, she knew he would not cast
her off. Conscious of her adaptability she had already said to him on
the way down:

“I could live with anybody, any nice person, and, of course, since I
have been so well everything is even easier. I do hope I shall like
her….”

She did like her, very much, Margaret saw to that, behaving exquisitely
under the stimulus of Gabriel’s worshipping eyes; listening as if she
were absorbedly interested in a description of the particular Healer who
had Anne’s case in hand.

“At first you see I was quite strange to it, I didn’t understand
completely. Mr. Roope is a little deaf, but he says he hears as much as
he wants to … so beautifully content and devout.”

“Has Mrs. Roope any defect?” Margaret got a word or two in edgeways
before the end of the evening, her sense of humour helping her.

“She has a sort of hysterical affection. She goes ‘Bupp, bupp,’ like a
turkey-cock and swells at the throat. At least that is what I thought,
but I am very backward at present. Some one asked her the cause once,
when I was there, and she said she had no such habit, the mistake was
ours. It is all very bewildering.”

“Are there any other members of the family?”

“Her dear mother! Such a nice creature, and quite a believer; she has
gall-stones.”

“Gall-stones!”

“Not really, you know, they pass with prayer. She looks ill, very ill
sometimes, but of course that is another of my mistakes. I am having
absent treatment now.”

“They know where you are?” Gabriel asked, perhaps a little anxiously.

“Oh! dear, yes. I am never out of touch with them.”

After she had retired for the night, for notwithstanding her immunity
from fatigue and pain, she retired early, explaining that she wanted to
put her things in order, Gabriel lingered to tell Margaret again what an
angel she was, and of his gratitude to her for the way she was receiving
and making much of his sister.

“I like doing it, she interests me. I suppose she really believes in it
all.”

“I think so. You see her illness is partly nervous, partly her spine,
but still to a certain extent, nervous. She is undoubtedly better since
she had this hobby. The only thing that worries me is this family of
whom she speaks, these Roopes. Of course they will get everything she
has out of her, every penny. If it only stops at that….”

“You have seen them?”

“Not yet. I hear the man is an emaciated idler, not over-clean, his wife
has evidently a bad form of St. Vitus’s dance. The woman leads them all,
the old mother, all of them. I expect they live upon what she makes.
I’ve heard a story or two … I had not realized about this absent
treatment, that Anne tells them where she goes. You don’t mind?”

“Why should I mind?”

“She may have told them I come here….”

“Oh! that! I had forgotten.”

It was true, she had forgotten that she must walk circumspectly. She had
spoken of and forgotten it. Now she remembered, because he reminded her;
reddened and wished she had not invited Anne. Anne, with her undesirable
acquaintances and meandering talk, who would keep her and Gabriel
company on their walks and drives for the next two days.

But Providence, or a broken chain in the sequence of the Roope Christian
Science treatment, came to her aid. On Saturday Anne was prostrated with
headache.

“She has never been able to bear a railway journey.”

“Does she explain?”

“I went in to see her. ‘If only I had faith enough,’ she moaned, and
asked me to send Mrs. Roope a telegram. I persuaded her to five grains
of aspirin, but I could see she felt very guilty about it. She will
sleep until the afternoon.”

“We can leave her?”

“Oh, yes! I doubt if she will be well awake by dinner, certainly not
before.”

“Let us get away from here, from Carbies and Pineland….”

“Right to the other side of the island. We could lunch at Ryde. I’ll get
a car.”

Nothing suited either of them so well today as a long silent drive. The
car went too fast for them to talk. Retrospect or the comparison of
notes was practically impossible. They sat side by side, smiling rarely,
one at the other as the spring burst into life around them. The tall
hedges were full of may blossom, with here and there a flowering
currant, the trees wore their coronal of young green leaves, great
clumps of primroses succeeded the yellow gorse of which they had tired,
fields were already green with the autumn-sown corn, there was nothing
to remind them of Carbies. For a long time the sea was out of sight.
Never had they been happier together, for all they spoke so little.

At Ryde he played the host to her, and she sat on the verandah whilst he
went in to give his orders. A few ships were aride in the bay, but the
scene was very different from what she had ever seen it before, in
Regatta time, when it was gay with bunting and familiar faces. Today
they had it to themselves, the hotel she only knew as overcrowded, and
the view of the town, so strangely quiet. And excellent was the luncheon
served to them. A lobster mayonnaise and a fillet steak, a pie of early
gooseberries, which nevertheless Margaret declared were bottled. They
spoke of other meals they had had together, of one in the British Museum
in particular. On this occasion it pleased her to declare that boiled
cod, not crimped, but flabby and served with lukewarm egg sauce, was the
most ambrosial food she knew.

“I don’t know when I enjoyed a meal so much,” she said reflectively.

“You wrote and reproached me for it.” His eyes caressed and forgave her
for it.

“Impossible!”

“You did indeed. I can produce your plaint in your own handwriting.”

“You don’t mean to say you keep my letters!”

“I would rather part with my Elzevirs.”

This was the only time they approached sentiment, approached and sheered
off. There was something between them, in wait for them, at which at
that moment neither wished to look.

The sun sparkled on the waters, a boatload of smart young naval officers
put off from a strange yacht in the bay. Gabriel and Margaret wished
that their landing at the pier should synchronise with their own
departure. Nothing was to break the unusualness of their solitude in
this whilom crowded place. He showed his tenderness in the way he
cloaked her, tucked the rugs about her, not in any spoken word. She felt
it subtly about her, and glowed in it, most amazingly content.

When they got back to Carbies, after having satisfied herself that her
guest had recovered and would join them at dinner, she astonished her
maid by demanding an evening toilette. She wore a gown of grey and
silver brocade, very stiff and Elizabethan, a chain of uncut cabochon
emeralds hung round her neck, and a stomacher of the same decorated her
corsage. The mauve osprey upstanding in her hair was clasped by a
similar encrusted jewel. She carried herself regally. Had she not come
into her woman’s Kingdom? Tonight she meant that he should see what he
had won.

It was a strange evening, nevertheless, and they were a strangely
assorted quartette. There was a little glow of colour in Margaret’s
cheeks, such as Peter Kennedy had never seen there before, her eyes
shone like stars, and she wore this regal toilette. Peter was introduced
to Anne. Anne, yellowish and subdued after the migraine, dressed in
brown taffeta, opening at the wizened throat to display a locket of seed
pearls on a gold chain; her brown toupée had slipped a little and
discovered a few grey hairs, her hands, covered with inexpensive rings,
showed clawlike and tremulous. Margaret’s unringed hands, so pale and
small, were like Japanese flowers. Peter had to take in Anne. Gabriel
gave his arm to Margaret. The poverty of the dining-room furniture was
out of the circle of the white spread table, where the suspended lamp
shone on fine silver and glass. Flowers came constantly to Carbies from
London. Tonight red roses scented the room; hothouse roses, blooming
before their time, on long thornless stems. Margaret drew a vase toward
her, exclaimed at the wealth of perfume.

“I only hope they won’t make your headache worse.”

Anne tried to insist she had no headache. Peter advised a glass of
champagne. She began to tell him something of her new-found panacea for
all ills, but ceased upon finding he was what she called a “medical
man,” one of the enemies of their creed. Before the dinner had passed
the soup stage he hardly made a pretence of listening to her. Both men
were absorbed in this regal Margaret. All her graciousness was for
Gabriel, but she found occasion now and again for a smile and a word for
Peter. Poor Peter! guest at this high feast where there was no food for
him. But he made the most of the material provender, and proved
fortunately to be an excellent trencherman. Otherwise Margaret’s good
cook had exerted herself in vain. For none of them had appetite but
Peter; Margaret because she talked too much, and Gabriel because he
could do nothing but listen; Anne because she was feeling the
after-effects, and regretting she had yielded to the temptation of the
aspirin.

The men sat together but a short time after the ladies left them. They
had one subject in common of which neither wished to speak. Gabriel
smoked only a cigarette, Peter praised the port, which happened to be
exceptionally bad; the weather was a topic that drew blank. Fortunately
they struck upon Pineland and its health-giving qualities, upon which
both were enthusiastic. Peter Kennedy was in Gabriel’s secret, but
Gabriel had no intuition of his.

“Mrs. Capel seems to have derived great benefit from her stay. Probably
from your treatment also,” he said courteously. His thoughts were so
full of her; how could he speak of anything else?

“I can’t do much for her,” Peter said gloomily. He had had the greater
part of a bottle of champagne, and the port on the top of it. “She
doesn’t do a thing I tell her. She doesn’t care whether I’m dead or
alive.”

“I am sure you are wrong,” Gabriel reassured him earnestly. “She has, I
am sure, the highest possible opinion of your skill. She carries out
your régime as far as possible. You think she should rest more?”

“She should do nothing but rest.”

“But with an active mind?”

“It is not only her mind that is active.”

“You mean the piano-playing, writing….”

“She ought just to vegetate. She has a weak heart, one of the
valves….”

Gabriel rose hurriedly, it was not possible for him to listen to a
description of his beloved’s physical ailments. He was shocked with
Peter for wishing to tell him, genuinely shocked. It was a breach of
professional etiquette, of good manners. They arrived upstairs in the
music room completely out of tune.

“He wouldn’t even listen when I told him how seedy you were, that you
ought to be kept quiet. Selfish owl. You’ve been out with him all day.”

“I rested for half an hour before dinner. Do I look tired or washed
out?” She turned a radiant face to Peter for investigation. “I am going
to play to you presently, when you will see if I am without power.”

“Power! Who said you were without that? You’d have power over the devil
tonight.”

“Or over my eccentric physician.” She smiled at him. “Have you been
behaving yourself prettily downstairs?”

“I haven’t told him what I think of him, if that’s what you mean!”

“Will you play first?” she asked him. Peter Kennedy was a genuine music
lover, and he played well, very much better since Margaret Capel had
come to Pineland. He sang also, but this accomplishment Margaret would
never let him display. She had no use for a man’s singing since James
Capel had lured her with his love songs.

Gabriel was talking to his sister whilst Margaret and Peter had this
little conversation. He was persuading her to an early retreat.

“Did you send my telegram to Mrs. Roope? I am sure I am getting better,
I have been thinking so all the evening. She must have been treating
me.”

“I am sure, but are not the vibrations stronger between you if you are
alone, if there is nothing to disturb your thoughts?…” Even Gabriel
Stanton could be disingenuous when the occasion demanded. She hesitated.

“Wouldn’t Mrs. Capel be offended? One owes something to one’s hostess.
She has promised to play. You told me she played beautifully. I do think
she is very sweet. But, Gabriel, have you thought of the flat? I
shouldn’t like to give it up. The gravel soil and air from the heath,
and everything. Isn’t she … isn’t she….”

“A size too big for it?” He finished her sentence for her.

“Too grand, I meant.”

“Yes, too grand. Of course she is too grand.” He turned to look at her.
This time their eloquent eyes met. She indicated the piano stool to
Peter Kennedy and came swiftly to the brother and sister.

“Has he made you comfortable?” She adjusted the pillows, and stole a
glance at Gabriel. Whenever she looked at him it seemed that his eyes
were upon her. They were extraordinarily conscious of each other, acting
a little because Anne and Peter were there. Peter Kennedy, over on the
music stool, struck a chord or two, as if to lure her back.

“One can always listen better when one is comfortable,” she said to
Anne. Then went over to the fender stool, where Gabriel joined her,
after a moment’s hesitation.

“Isn’t it too hot for you?” she asked him innocently.

“It might have been,” he answered, smiling, “only the fire is out.”

“Is it?” she turned to look. “I had not noticed it. Hush! He is going to
play the _Berceuse_. You haven’t heard him before, have you? He plays
quite well.”

So they sat there together whilst Peter Kennedy played, and every now
and then Anne said from the sofa:

“How delicious! Thank you ever so much. What was it? I thought I knew
the piece.”

Peter got up from the piano before Gabriel and Margaret had tired of
sitting side by side on the fender stool, or Anne of ejaculating her
little complimentary, grateful, or enquiring phrases.

“I suppose you’ve had enough of it,” he said abruptly to Margaret.

“No, I haven’t. You could have gone on for another hour.”

“I daresay.”

Gabriel thought his manner singularly abrupt, almost rude. This was only
the second or third time he had met Margaret’s medical attendant, and he
was not at all favourably impressed by him. As for Peter:

“Damned dry stick,” he said to Margaret, when he had persuaded her to
the redemption of her promise, and was leading her to the piano.

“What a boor you really are, notwithstanding your playing,” she answered
calmly, adjusting the candles, the height of the piano stool, looking
out some music. “I really thought you were going to behave well tonight.
And not a word about Christian Science,” she chaffed him gently, “after
all the coaching.”

She too tried a few chords.

“I say, don’t you play too long tonight. Don’t you go overdoing it.” Her
chaff made no impression upon him, he was used to it. But he was struck
by some alteration or intensification of her brilliancy. How could he
know the secret of it? The love of which he was capable gave him no key
to the spell that was on those two tonight.

Anne slipped off to bed presently, at Gabriel’s whispered encouragement,
and Margaret went on playing to the two men. Peter commented sometimes,
asked for this or the other, went over and stood by her side, turning
over the music, sat down beside her now and again. Gabriel remained on
the corner of the sofa Anne had vacated, and listened. Therefore it was
Peter who caught her when she fell forward with a little sigh or moan,
Peter who caught her up in his arms and strode over with her to the
sofa. Gabriel would have taken her from him, but Peter issued impatient
orders.

“Open the window, pull the blind up, let us have as much air as
possible. Ring for her maid, ring like blazes … she has only fainted.”
Within a minute she was sitting up, radiantly white, but with shadows
round her pale mouth and deep under her eyes.

“It is nothing, it is only a touch of faintness. Not an attack. Gabriel,
you were not frightened?” she asked, and put out her hand to him.

Peter said something inarticulate and got up from where he had been
kneeling beside her.

“I’ll get you some brandy.”

“Shall I go?” Gabriel asked, but was holding her hand.

“No, no. You stay. Dr. Kennedy knows where it is.”

Gabriel knelt beside her now.

“Were you frightened?” she asked, still a little faintly.

“Love, lover, sweet, my heart was shaken with terror.”

“It is really nothing. We have had such a wonderful day I was trying to
play it all to you. Then the glory spread, brightened, overwhelmed
me….”

“Beloved!”

“Hush! he is coming back. You won’t believe anything he tells you?”

“Not if you tell me you are not really ill? Oh! my darling! I could not
bear it if you were to suffer. Let me get some one else….”

Peter was back with the brandy, a measured dose, he brushed Gabriel
aside as if now at least he had the mastery of the position. For all
Gabriel’s preoccupation with Margaret, Dr. Kennedy managed to attract
from him a wondering moment of attention. Need he have knelt to
administer the draught? What was it he was murmuring? Whatever it was
Margaret was unwilling to hear. She leaned back, closing her eyes. When
the maid came, torn reluctantly from her supper, she was able,
nevertheless, to reassure her.

“Nothing of consequence, Stevens, not an attack. I am going across to my
bedroom. One of you will lend me an arm,” they were both in readiness,
“or both.” She took an arm of one and an arm of the other, smiled in
both their faces. “What a way to wind up our little evening! You will
have to forgive me, entertain each other.”

“I’ll come in again and see you when you are comfortable,” the doctor
said, a little defiantly, Gabriel thought.

“No, don’t wait. Not on any account. Stevens knows everything to do for
me. Show Mr. Stanton where the cigars are.”

They were not in good humour when they left her.

“I don’t smoke cigars,” Gabriel said abruptly when Dr. Kennedy made a
feint of carrying out her wishes. Peter shrugged his shoulders.

“She told me to find them for you.”

“Has she had attacks like this before?” Gabriel asked, after a pause.
Peter answered gloomily:

“And will again if she is allowed to overtire herself by driving for
hours in the sun, and then encouraged to sit through a long dinner,
talking all the time.”

“She ought not to have played?” Peter Kennedy threw himself on to the
sofa, desecrating it, bringing an angry flush to Gabriel’s brow. But
when he groaned and said:

“If one could only do anything for her!”

Gabriel forgave him in that instant. Gabriel had lived all his life with
an invalid. Attacks of hysteria and faintness had been his daily menu
for years.

“But surely an attack of faintness is not very unusual or alarming? My
sister often faints….”

“She isn’t Margaret Capel, is she?”

“You … you knew Mrs. Capel before she came to Carbies?”

“No, I didn’t. But I know her now, don’t I?”

Gabriel was silent. He had seen a great many doctors too, before the
Christian Scientists had broken their influence, but such a one as this
was new to him. Margaret was so sacred and special to him that he did
not know what to think. But Peter gave him little time for thinking. He
fixed a gloomy eye upon him and said:

“A man’s a man, you know, although he’s nothing but a country
practitioner.” Gabriel was acutely annoyed, a little shocked, most
supremely uncomfortable.

“But ought you to go on attending her?” he got out.

“I shan’t do her any harm, shall I, because I am madly in love with her,
because I could kiss the ground she walks on, because I’d give my life
for hers any day?” Gabriel’s face might have been carved. “She treats me
like a dog….”

Gabriel made a gesture of dissent, Margaret could not treat any one like
a dog.

“Oh, yes, she does, she says I’m not fit to wipe the mud off your
shoes….”

Then Margaret knew. He was a little stunned and taken by surprise to
think Margaret knew her doctor was in love with her, knew and had kept
him in attendance. But of course she was right, everything she did was
right. She had not taken the matter seriously.

“I suppose I’d better go.” Peter dropped his feet to the ground, rose
slowly. “She won’t see me again if she says she won’t. She’s got her
bromide. You might ring me up in the morning and tell me how she is, if
she wants me to come round. That’s not too much to ask, is it?” he said
savagely.

“Not at all,” Gabriel answered coldly. “I should of course do anything
she wished.” Peter paused a moment at the door.

“I say, you’re not going to try and put her off me, are you? Just
because I’ve let myself go to you?”

“I am not authorised to interfere in Mrs. Capel’s affairs.” Gabriel was
quite himself again and very stiff.

“But I understand you will be.”

“I would rather not discuss the future with you.”

“Then you do intend to try and out me?”

Gabriel was suddenly a little sorry for him, he looked so desperately
miserable and anxious, and after all he, Peter Kennedy, was leaving the
house. Gabriel was remaining, sleeping under the same roof.

“I will see her maid if possible. You shall be called up if you are
needed. Nothing but her well-being, her own wish will be thought of….
Anyway you shall have a report.”

“As her doctor she trusts me. I can ease her symptoms.” It was almost a
plea. “She need not suffer.”

“Of course you will be sent for. They have your telephone number?”

Peter held out his hand.

“Good-night. You’re a good fellow. She is quite right. I suppose I ought
not to have told you how it is with me…?”

“It is of no consequence,” Gabriel answered, intending to be courteous.