Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesNight And Day - Chapter 32
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
Night And Day - Chapter 32 Post by :richard52az Category :Long Stories Author :Virginia Woolf Date :February 2011 Read :2115

Click below to download : Night And Day - Chapter 32 (Format : PDF)

Night And Day - Chapter 32

Nobody asked Katharine any questions next day. If cross-examined she
might have said that nobody spoke to her. She worked a little, wrote a
little, ordered the dinner, and sat, for longer than she knew, with
her head on her hand piercing whatever lay before her, whether it was
a letter or a dictionary, as if it were a film upon the deep prospects
that revealed themselves to her kindling and brooding eyes. She rose
once, and going to the bookcase, took out her father's Greek
dictionary and spread the sacred pages of symbols and figures before
her. She smoothed the sheets with a mixture of affectionate amusement
and hope. Would other eyes look on them with her one day? The thought,
long intolerable, was now just bearable.

She was quite unaware of the anxiety with which her movements were
watched and her expression scanned. Cassandra was careful not to be
caught looking at her, and their conversation was so prosaic that were
it not for certain jolts and jerks between the sentences, as if the
mind were kept with difficulty to the rails, Mrs. Milvain herself
could have detected nothing of a suspicious nature in what she
overheard.

William, when he came in late that afternoon and found Cassandra
alone, had a very serious piece of news to impart. He had just passed
Katharine in the street and she had failed to recognize him.

"That doesn't matter with me, of course, but suppose it happened with
somebody else? What would they think? They would suspect something
merely from her expression. She looked--she looked"--he hesitated--
"like some one walking in her sleep."

To Cassandra the significant thing was that Katharine had gone out
without telling her, and she interpreted this to mean that she had
gone out to meet Ralph Denham. But to her surprise William drew no
comfort from this probability.

"Once throw conventions aside," he began, "once do the things that
people don't do--" and the fact that you are going to meet a young man
is no longer proof of anything, except, indeed, that people will talk.

Cassandra saw, not without a pang of jealousy, that he was extremely
solicitous that people should not talk about Katharine, as if his
interest in her were still proprietary rather than friendly. As they
were both ignorant of Ralph's visit the night before they had not that
reason to comfort themselves with the thought that matters were
hastening to a crisis. These absences of Katharine's, moreover, left
them exposed to interruptions which almost destroyed their pleasure in
being alone together. The rainy evening made it impossible to go out;
and, indeed, according to William's code, it was considerably more
damning to be seen out of doors than surprised within. They were so
much at the mercy of bells and doors that they could hardly talk of
Macaulay with any conviction, and William preferred to defer the
second act of his tragedy until another day.

Under these circumstances Cassandra showed herself at her best. She
sympathized with William's anxieties and did her utmost to share them;
but still, to be alone together, to be running risks together, to be
partners in the wonderful conspiracy, was to her so enthralling that
she was always forgetting discretion, breaking out into exclamations
and admirations which finally made William believe that, although
deplorable and upsetting, the situation was not without its sweetness.

When the door did open, he started, but braved the forthcoming
revelation. It was not Mrs. Milvain, however, but Katharine herself
who entered, closely followed by Ralph Denham. With a set expression
which showed what an effort she was making, Katharine encountered
their eyes, and saying, "We're not going to interrupt you," she led
Denham behind the curtain which hung in front of the room with the
relics. This refuge was none of her willing, but confronted with wet
pavements and only some belated museum or Tube station for shelter,
she was forced, for Ralph's sake, to face the discomforts of her own
house. Under the street lamps she had thought him looking both tired
and strained.

Thus separated, the two couples remained occupied for some time with
their own affairs. Only the lowest murmurs penetrated from one section
of the room to the other. At length the maid came in to bring a
message that Mr. Hilbery would not be home for dinner. It was true
that there was no need that Katharine should be informed, but William
began to inquire Cassandra's opinion in such a way as to show that,
with or without reason, he wished very much to speak to her.

From motives of her own Cassandra dissuaded him.

"But don't you think it's a little unsociable?" he hazarded. "Why not
do something amusing?--go to the play, for instance? Why not ask
Katharine and Ralph, eh?" The coupling of their names in this manner
caused Cassandra's heart to leap with pleasure.

"Don't you think they must be--?" she began, but William hastily took
her up.

"Oh, I know nothing about that. I only thought we might amuse
ourselves, as your uncle's out."

He proceeded on his embassy with a mixture of excitement and
embarrassment which caused him to turn aside with his hand on the
curtain, and to examine intently for several moments the portrait of a
lady, optimistically said by Mrs. Hilbery to be an early work of Sir
Joshua Reynolds. Then, with some unnecessary fumbling, he drew aside
the curtain, and with his eyes fixed upon the ground, repeated his
message and suggested that they should all spend the evening at the
play. Katharine accepted the suggestion with such cordiality that it
was strange to find her of no clear mind as to the precise spectacle
she wished to see. She left the choice entirely to Ralph and William,
who, taking counsel fraternally over an evening paper, found
themselves in agreement as to the merits of a music-hall. This being
arranged, everything else followed easily and enthusiastically.
Cassandra had never been to a music-hall. Katharine instructed her in
the peculiar delights of an entertainment where Polar bears follow
directly upon ladies in full evening dress, and the stage is
alternately a garden of mystery, a milliner's band-box, and a fried-
fish shop in the Mile End Road. Whatever the exact nature of the
program that night, it fulfilled the highest purposes of dramatic art,
so far, at least, as four of the audience were concerned.

No doubt the actors and the authors would have been surprised to learn
in what shape their efforts reached those particular eyes and ears;
but they could not have denied that the effect as a whole was
tremendous. The hall resounded with brass and strings, alternately of
enormous pomp and majesty, and then of sweetest lamentation. The reds
and creams of the background, the lyres and harps and urns and skulls,
the protuberances of plaster, the fringes of scarlet plush, the
sinking and blazing of innumerable electric lights, could scarcely
have been surpassed for decorative effect by any craftsman of the
ancient or modern world.

Then there was the audience itself, bare-shouldered, tufted and
garlanded in the stalls, decorous but festal in the balconies, and
frankly fit for daylight and street life in the galleries. But,
however they differed when looked at separately, they shared the same
huge, lovable nature in the bulk, which murmured and swayed and
quivered all the time the dancing and juggling and love-making went on
in front of it, slowly laughed and reluctantly left off laughing, and
applauded with a helter-skelter generosity which sometimes became
unanimous and overwhelming. Once William saw Katharine leaning forward
and clapping her hands with an abandonment that startled him. Her
laugh rang out with the laughter of the audience.

For a second he was puzzled, as if this laughter disclosed something
that he had never suspected in her. But then Cassandra's face caught
his eye, gazing with astonishment at the buffoon, not laughing, too
deeply intent and surprised to laugh at what she saw, and for some
moments he watched her as if she were a child.

The performance came to an end, the illusion dying out first here and
then there, as some rose to put on their coats, others stood upright
to salute "God Save the King," the musicians folded their music and
encased their instruments, and the lights sank one by one until the
house was empty, silent, and full of great shadows. Looking back over
her shoulder as she followed Ralph through the swing doors, Cassandra
marveled to see how the stage was already entirely without romance.
But, she wondered, did they really cover all the seats in brown
holland every night?

The success of this entertainment was such that before they separated
another expedition had been planned for the next day. The next day was
Saturday; therefore both William and Ralph were free to devote the
whole afternoon to an expedition to Greenwich, which Cassandra had
never seen, and Katharine confused with Dulwich. On this occasion
Ralph was their guide. He brought them without accident to Greenwich.

What exigencies of state or fantasies of imagination first gave birth
to the cluster of pleasant places by which London is surrounded is
matter of indifference now that they have adapted themselves so
admirably to the needs of people between the ages of twenty and thirty
with Saturday afternoons to spend. Indeed, if ghosts have any interest
in the affections of those who succeed them they must reap their
richest harvests when the fine weather comes again and the lovers, the
sightseers, and the holiday-makers pour themselves out of trains and
omnibuses into their old pleasure-grounds. It is true that they go,
for the most part, unthanked by name, although upon this occasion
William was ready to give such discriminating praise as the dead
architects and painters received seldom in the course of the year.
They were walking by the river bank, and Katharine and Ralph, lagging
a little behind, caught fragments of his lecture. Katharine smiled at
the sound of his voice; she listened as if she found it a little
unfamiliar, intimately though she knew it; she tested it. The note of
assurance and happiness was new. William was very happy. She learnt
every hour what sources of his happiness she had neglected. She had
never asked him to teach her anything; she had never consented to read
Macaulay; she had never expressed her belief that his play was second
only to the works of Shakespeare. She followed dreamily in their wake,
smiling and delighting in the sound which conveyed, she knew, the
rapturous and yet not servile assent of Cassandra.

Then she murmured, "How can Cassandra--" but changed her sentence to
the opposite of what she meant to say and ended, "how could she
herself have been so blind?" But it was unnecessary to follow out such
riddles when the presence of Ralph supplied her with more interesting
problems, which somehow became involved with the little boat crossing
the river, the majestic and careworn City, and the steamers homecoming
with their treasury, or starting in search of it, so that infinite
leisure would be necessary for the proper disentanglement of one from
the other. He stopped, moreover, and began inquiring of an old boatman
as to the tides and the ships. In thus talking he seemed different,
and even looked different, she thought, against the river, with the
steeples and towers for background. His strangeness, his romance, his
power to leave her side and take part in the affairs of men, the
possibility that they should together hire a boat and cross the river,
the speed and wildness of this enterprise filled her mind and inspired
her with such rapture, half of love and half of adventure, that
William and Cassandra were startled from their talk, and Cassandra
exclaimed, "She looks as if she were offering up a sacrifice! Very
beautiful," she added quickly, though she repressed, in deference to
William, her own wonder that the sight of Ralph Denham talking to a
boatman on the banks of the Thames could move any one to such an
attitude of adoration.

That afternoon, what with tea and the curiosities of the Thames tunnel
and the unfamiliarity of the streets, passed so quickly that the only
method of prolonging it was to plan another expedition for the
following day. Hampton Court was decided upon, in preference to
Hampstead, for though Cassandra had dreamt as a child of the brigands
of Hampstead, she had now transferred her affections completely and
for ever to William III. Accordingly, they arrived at Hampton Court
about lunch-time on a fine Sunday morning. Such unity marked their
expressions of admiration for the red-brick building that they might
have come there for no other purpose than to assure each other that
this palace was the stateliest palace in the world. They walked up and
down the Terrace, four abreast, and fancied themselves the owners of
the place, and calculated the amount of good to the world produced
indubitably by such a tenancy.

"The only hope for us," said Katharine, "is that William shall die,
and Cassandra shall be given rooms as the widow of a distinguished
poet."

"Or--" Cassandra began, but checked herself from the liberty of
envisaging Katharine as the widow of a distinguished lawyer. Upon
this, the third day of junketing, it was tiresome to have to restrain
oneself even from such innocent excursions of fancy. She dared not
question William; he was inscrutable; he never seemed even to follow
the other couple with curiosity when they separated, as they
frequently did, to name a plant, or examine a fresco. Cassandra was
constantly studying their backs. She noticed how sometimes the impulse
to move came from Katharine, and sometimes from Ralph; how, sometimes,
they walked slow, as if in profound intercourse, and sometimes fast,
as if in passionate. When they came together again nothing could be
more unconcerned than their manner.

"We have been wondering whether they ever catch a fish . . ." or, "We
must leave time to visit the Maze." Then, to puzzle her further,
William and Ralph filled in all interstices of meal-times or railway
journeys with perfectly good-tempered arguments; or they discussed
politics, or they told stories, or they did sums together upon the
backs of old envelopes to prove something. She suspected that
Katharine was absent-minded, but it was impossible to tell. There were
moments when she felt so young and inexperienced that she almost
wished herself back with the silkworms at Stogdon House, and not
embarked upon this bewildering intrigue.

These moments, however, were only the necessary shadow or chill which
proved the substance of her bliss, and did not damage the radiance
which seemed to rest equally upon the whole party. The fresh air of
spring, the sky washed of clouds and already shedding warmth from its
blue, seemed the reply vouchsafed by nature to the mood of her chosen
spirits. These chosen spirits were to be found also among the deer,
dumbly basking, and among the fish, set still in mid-stream, for they
were mute sharers in a benignant state not needing any exposition by
the tongue. No words that Cassandra could come by expressed the
stillness, the brightness, the air of expectancy which lay upon the
orderly beauty of the grass walks and gravel paths down which they
went walking four abreast that Sunday afternoon. Silently the shadows
of the trees lay across the broad sunshine; silence wrapt her heart in
its folds. The quivering stillness of the butterfly on the half-opened
flower, the silent grazing of the deer in the sun, were the sights her
eye rested upon and received as the images of her own nature laid open
to happiness and trembling in its ecstasy.

But the afternoon wore on, and it became time to leave the gardens. As
they drove from Waterloo to Chelsea, Katharine began to have some
compunction about her father, which, together with the opening of
offices and the need of working in them on Monday, made it difficult
to plan another festival for the following day. Mr. Hilbery had taken
their absence, so far, with paternal benevolence, but they could not
trespass upon it indefinitely. Indeed, had they known it, he was
already suffering from their absence, and longing for their return.

He had no dislike of solitude, and Sunday, in particular, was
pleasantly adapted for letter-writing, paying calls, or a visit to his
club. He was leaving the house on some such suitable expedition
towards tea-time when he found himself stopped on his own doorstep by
his sister, Mrs. Milvain. She should, on hearing that no one was at
home, have withdrawn submissively, but instead she accepted his
half-hearted invitation to come in, and he found himself in the
melancholy position of being forced to order tea for her and sit in
the drawing-room while she drank it. She speedily made it plain that
she was only thus exacting because she had come on a matter of
business. He was by no means exhilarated at the news.

"Katharine is out this afternoon," he remarked. "Why not come round
later and discuss it with her--with us both, eh?"

"My dear Trevor, I have particular reasons for wishing to talk to you
alone. . . . Where is Katharine?"

"She's out with her young man, naturally. Cassandra plays the part of
chaperone very usefully. A charming young woman that--a great favorite
of mine." He turned his stone between his fingers, and conceived
different methods of leading Celia away from her obsession, which, he
supposed, must have reference to the domestic affairs of Cyril as
usual.

"With Cassandra," Mrs. Milvain repeated significantly. "With
Cassandra."

"Yes, with Cassandra," Mr. Hilbery agreed urbanely, pleased at the
diversion. "I think they said they were going to Hampton Court, and I
rather believe they were taking a protege of mine, Ralph Denham, a
very clever fellow, too, to amuse Cassandra. I thought the arrangement
very suitable." He was prepared to dwell at some length upon this safe
topic, and trusted that Katharine would come in before he had done
with it.

"Hampton Court always seems to me an ideal spot for engaged couples.
There's the Maze, there's a nice place for having tea--I forget what
they call it--and then, if the young man knows his business he
contrives to take his lady upon the river. Full of
possibilities--full. Cake, Celia?" Mr. Hilbery continued. "I respect
my dinner too much, but that can't possibly apply to you. You've never
observed that feast, so far as I can remember."

Her brother's affability did not deceive Mrs. Milvain; it slightly
saddened her; she well knew the cause of it. Blind and infatuated as
usual!

"Who is this Mr. Denham?" she asked.

"Ralph Denham?" said Mr. Hilbery, in relief that her mind had taken
this turn. "A very interesting young man. I've a great belief in him.
He's an authority upon our mediaeval institutions, and if he weren't
forced to earn his living he would write a book that very much wants
writing--"

"He is not well off, then?" Mrs. Milvain interposed.

"Hasn't a penny, I'm afraid, and a family more or less dependent on
him."

"A mother and sisters?-- His father is dead?"

"Yes, his father died some years ago," said Mr. Hilbery, who was
prepared to draw upon his imagination, if necessary, to keep Mrs.
Milvain supplied with facts about the private history of Ralph Denham
since, for some inscrutable reason, the subject took her fancy.

"His father has been dead some time, and this young man had to take
his place--"

"A legal family?" Mrs. Milvain inquired. "I fancy I've seen the name
somewhere."

Mr. Hilbery shook his head. "I should be inclined to doubt whether
they were altogether in that walk of life," he observed. "I fancy that
Denham once told me that his father was a corn merchant. Perhaps he
said a stockbroker. He came to grief, anyhow, as stockbrokers have a
way of doing. I've a great respect for Denham," he added. The remark
sounded to his ears unfortunately conclusive, and he was afraid that
there was nothing more to be said about Denham. He examined the tips
of his fingers carefully. "Cassandra's grown into a very charming
young woman," he started afresh. "Charming to look at, and charming to
talk to, though her historical knowledge is not altogether profound.
Another cup of tea?"

Mrs. Milvain had given her cup a little push, which seemed to indicate
some momentary displeasure. But she did not want any more tea.

"It is Cassandra that I have come about," she began. "I am very sorry
to say that Cassandra is not at all what you think her, Trevor. She
has imposed upon your and Maggie's goodness. She has behaved in a way
that would have seemed incredible--in this house of all houses--were
it not for other circumstances that are still more incredible."

Mr. Hilbery looked taken aback, and was silent for a second.

"It all sounds very black," he remarked urbanely, continuing his
examination of his finger-nails. "But I own I am completely in the
dark."

Mrs. Milvain became rigid, and emitted her message in little short
sentences of extreme intensity.

"Who has Cassandra gone out with? William Rodney. Who has Katharine
gone out with? Ralph Denham. Why are they for ever meeting each other
round street corners, and going to music-halls, and taking cabs late
at night? Why will Katharine not tell me the truth when I question
her? I understand the reason now. Katharine has entangled herself with
this unknown lawyer; she has seen fit to condone Cassandra's conduct."

There was another slight pause.

"Ah, well, Katharine will no doubt have some explanation to give me,"
Mr. Hilbery replied imperturbably. "It's a little too complicated for
me to take in all at once, I confess--and, if you won't think me rude,
Celia, I think I'll be getting along towards Knightsbridge."

Mrs. Milvain rose at once.

"She has condoned Cassandra's conduct and entangled herself with Ralph
Denham," she repeated. She stood very erect with the dauntless air of
one testifying to the truth regardless of consequences. She knew from
past discussions that the only way to counter her brother's indolence
and indifference was to shoot her statements at him in a compressed
form once finally upon leaving the room. Having spoken thus, she
restrained herself from adding another word, and left the house with
the dignity of one inspired by a great ideal.

She had certainly framed her remarks in such a way as to prevent her
brother from paying his call in the region of Knightsbridge. He had no
fears for Katharine, but there was a suspicion at the back of his mind
that Cassandra might have been, innocently and ignorantly, led into
some foolish situation in one of their unshepherded dissipations. His
wife was an erratic judge of the conventions; he himself was lazy; and
with Katharine absorbed, very naturally--Here he recalled, as well as
he could, the exact nature of the charge. "She has condoned
Cassandra's conduct and entangled herself with Ralph Denham." From
which it appeared that Katharine was NOT absorbed, or which of them
was it that had entangled herself with Ralph Denham? From this maze of
absurdity Mr. Hilbery saw no way out until Katharine herself came to
his help, so that he applied himself, very philosophically on the
whole, to a book.

No sooner had he heard the young people come in and go upstairs than
he sent a maid to tell Miss Katharine that he wished to speak to her
in the study. She was slipping furs loosely onto the floor in the
drawing-room in front of the fire. They were all gathered round,
reluctant to part. The message from her father surprised Katharine,
and the others caught from her look, as she turned to go, a vague
sense of apprehension.

Mr. Hilbery was reassured by the sight of her. He congratulated
himself, he prided himself, upon possessing a daughter who had a sense
of responsibility and an understanding of life profound beyond her
years. Moreover, she was looking to-day unusual; he had come to take
her beauty for granted; now he remembered it and was surprised by it.
He thought instinctively that he had interrupted some happy hour of
hers with Rodney, and apologized.

"I'm sorry to bother you, my dear. I heard you come in, and thought
I'd better make myself disagreeable at once--as it seems,
unfortunately, that fathers are expected to make themselves
disagreeable. Now, your Aunt Celia has been to see me; your Aunt Celia
has taken it into her head apparently that you and Cassandra have
been--let us say a little foolish. This going about together--these
pleasant little parties--there's been some kind of misunderstanding. I
told her I saw no harm in it, but I should just like to hear from
yourself. Has Cassandra been left a little too much in the company of
Mr. Denham?"

Katharine did not reply at once, and Mr. Hilbery tapped the coal
encouragingly with the poker. Then she said, without embarrassment or
apology:

"I don't see why I should answer Aunt Celia's questions. I've told her
already that I won't."

Mr. Hilbery was relieved and secretly amused at the thought of the
interview, although he could not license such irreverence outwardly.

"Very good. Then you authorize me to tell her that she's been
mistaken, and there was nothing but a little fun in it? You've no
doubt, Katharine, in your own mind? Cassandra is in our charge, and I
don't intend that people should gossip about her. I suggest that you
should be a little more careful in future. Invite me to your next
entertainment."

She did not respond, as he had hoped, with any affectionate or
humorous reply. She meditated, pondering something or other, and he
reflected that even his Katharine did not differ from other women in
the capacity to let things be. Or had she something to say?

"Have you a guilty conscience?" he inquired lightly. "Tell me,
Katharine," he said more seriously, struck by something in the
expression of her eyes.

"I've been meaning to tell you for some time," she said, "I'm not
going to marry William."

"You're not going--!" he exclaimed, dropping the poker in his immense
surprise. "Why? When? Explain yourself, Katharine."

"Oh, some time ago--a week, perhaps more." Katharine spoke hurriedly
and indifferently, as if the matter could no longer concern any one.

"But may I ask--why have I not been told of this--what do you mean by
it?"

"We don't wish to be married--that's all."

"This is William's wish as well as yours?"

"Oh, yes. We agree perfectly."

Mr. Hilbery had seldom felt more completely at a loss. He thought that
Katharine was treating the matter with curious unconcern; she scarcely
seemed aware of the gravity of what she was saying; he did not
understand the position at all. But his desire to smooth everything
over comfortably came to his relief. No doubt there was some quarrel,
some whimsey on the part of William, who, though a good fellow, was a
little exacting sometimes--something that a woman could put right. But
though he inclined to take the easiest view of his responsibilities,
he cared too much for this daughter to let things be.

"I confess I find great difficulty in following you. I should like to
hear William's side of the story," he said irritably. "I think he
ought to have spoken to me in the first instance."

"I wouldn't let him," said Katharine. "I know it must seem to you very
strange," she added. "But I assure you, if you'd wait a little--until
mother comes back."

This appeal for delay was much to Mr. Hilbery's liking. But his
conscience would not suffer it. People were talking. He could not
endure that his daughter's conduct should be in any way considered
irregular. He wondered whether, in the circumstances, it would be
better to wire to his wife, to send for one of his sisters, to forbid
William the house, to pack Cassandra off home--for he was vaguely
conscious of responsibilities in her direction, too. His forehead was
becoming more and more wrinkled by the multiplicity of his anxieties,
which he was sorely tempted to ask Katharine to solve for him, when
the door opened and William Rodney appeared. This necessitated a
complete change, not only of manner, but of position also.

"Here's William," Katharine exclaimed, in a tone of relief. "I've told
father we're not engaged," she said to him. "I've explained that I
prevented you from telling him."

William's manner was marked by the utmost formality. He bowed very
slightly in the direction of Mr. Hilbery, and stood erect, holding one
lapel of his coat, and gazing into the center of the fire. He waited
for Mr. Hilbery to speak.

Mr. Hilbery also assumed an appearance of formidable dignity. He had
risen to his feet, and now bent the top part of his body slightly
forward.

"I should like your account of this affair, Rodney--if Katharine no
longer prevents you from speaking."

William waited two seconds at least.

"Our engagement is at an end," he said, with the utmost stiffness.

"Has this been arrived at by your joint desire?"

After a perceptible pause William bent his head, and Katharine said,
as if by an afterthought:

"Oh, yes."

Mr. Hilbery swayed to and fro, and moved his lips as if to utter
remarks which remained unspoken.

"I can only suggest that you should postpone any decision until the
effect of this misunderstanding has had time to wear off. You have now
known each other--" he began.

"There's been no misunderstanding," Katharine interposed. "Nothing at
all." She moved a few paces across the room, as if she intended to
leave them. Her preoccupied naturalness was in strange contrast to her
father's pomposity and to William's military rigidity. He had not once
raised his eyes. Katharine's glance, on the other hand, ranged past
the two gentlemen, along the books, over the tables, towards the door.
She was paying the least possible attention, it seemed, to what was
happening. Her father looked at her with a sudden clouding and
troubling of his expression. Somehow his faith in her stability and
sense was queerly shaken. He no longer felt that he could ultimately
entrust her with the whole conduct of her own affairs after a
superficial show of directing them. He felt, for the first time in
many years, responsible for her.

"Look here, we must get to the bottom of this," he said, dropping his
formal manner and addressing Rodney as if Katharine were not present.
"You've had some difference of opinion, eh? Take my word for it, most
people go through this sort of thing when they're engaged. I've seen
more trouble come from long engagements than from any other form of
human folly. Take my advice and put the whole matter out of your
minds--both of you. I prescribe a complete abstinence from emotion.
Visit some cheerful seaside resort, Rodney."

He was struck by William's appearance, which seemed to him to indicate
profound feeling resolutely held in check. No doubt, he reflected,
Katharine had been very trying, unconsciously trying, and had driven
him to take up a position which was none of his willing. Mr. Hilbery
certainly did not overrate William's sufferings. No minutes in his
life had hitherto extorted from him such intensity of anguish. He was
now facing the consequences of his insanity. He must confess himself
entirely and fundamentally other than Mr. Hilbery thought him.
Everything was against him. Even the Sunday evening and the fire and
the tranquil library scene were against him. Mr. Hilbery's appeal to
him as a man of the world was terribly against him. He was no longer a
man of any world that Mr. Hilbery cared to recognize. But some power
compelled him, as it had compelled him to come downstairs, to make his
stand here and now, alone and unhelped by any one, without prospect of
reward. He fumbled with various phrases; and then jerked out:

"I love Cassandra."

Mr. Hilbery's face turned a curious dull purple. He looked at his
daughter. He nodded his head, as if to convey his silent command to
her to leave the room; but either she did not notice it or preferred
not to obey.

"You have the impudence--" Mr. Hilbery began, in a dull, low voice
that he himself had never heard before, when there was a scuffling and
exclaiming in the hall, and Cassandra, who appeared to be insisting
against some dissuasion on the part of another, burst into the room.

"Uncle Trevor," she exclaimed, "I insist upon telling you the truth!"
She flung herself between Rodney and her uncle, as if she sought to
intercept their blows. As her uncle stood perfectly still, looking
very large and imposing, and as nobody spoke, she shrank back a
little, and looked first at Katharine and then at Rodney. "You must
know the truth," she said, a little lamely.

"You have the impudence to tell me this in Katharine's presence?" Mr.
Hilbery continued, speaking with complete disregard of Cassandra's
interruption.

"I am aware, quite aware--" Rodney's words, which were broken in
sense, spoken after a pause, and with his eyes upon the ground,
nevertheless expressed an astonishing amount of resolution. "I am
quite aware what you must think of me," he brought out, looking Mr.
Hilbery directly in the eyes for the first time.

"I could express my views on the subject more fully if we were alone,"
Mr. Hilbery returned.

"But you forget me," said Katharine. She moved a little towards
Rodney, and her movement seemed to testify mutely to her respect for
him, and her alliance with him. "I think William has behaved perfectly
rightly, and, after all, it is I who am concerned--I and Cassandra."

Cassandra, too, gave an indescribably slight movement which seemed to
draw the three of them into alliance together. Katharine's tone and
glance made Mr. Hilbery once more feel completely at a loss, and in
addition, painfully and angrily obsolete; but in spite of an awful
inner hollowness he was outwardly composed.

"Cassandra and Rodney have a perfect right to settle their own affairs
according to their own wishes; but I see no reason why they should do
so either in my room or in my house. . . . I wish to be quite clear on
this point, however; you are no longer engaged to Rodney."

He paused, and his pause seemed to signify that he was extremely
thankful for his daughter's deliverance.

Cassandra turned to Katharine, who drew her breath as if to speak and
checked herself; Rodney, too, seemed to await some movement on her
part; her father glanced at her as if he half anticipated some further
revelation. She remained perfectly silent. In the silence they heard
distinctly steps descending the staircase, and Katharine went straight
to the door.

"Wait," Mr. Hilbery commanded. "I wish to speak to you--alone," he
added.

She paused, holding the door ajar.

"I'll come back," she said, and as she spoke she opened the door and
went out. They could hear her immediately speak to some one outside,
though the words were inaudible.

Mr. Hilbery was left confronting the guilty couple, who remained
standing as if they did not accept their dismissal, and the
disappearance of Katharine had brought some change into the situation.
So, in his secret heart, Mr. Hilbery felt that it had, for he could
not explain his daughter's behavior to his own satisfaction.

"Uncle Trevor," Cassandra exclaimed impulsively, "don't be angry,
please. I couldn't help it; I do beg you to forgive me."

Her uncle still refused to acknowledge her identity, and still talked
over her head as if she did not exist.

"I suppose you have communicated with the Otways," he said to Rodney
grimly.

"Uncle Trevor, we wanted to tell you," Cassandra replied for him. "We
waited--" she looked appealingly at Rodney, who shook his head ever so
slightly.

"Yes? What were you waiting for?" her uncle asked sharply, looking at
her at last.

The words died on her lips. It was apparent that she was straining her
ears as if to catch some sound outside the room that would come to her
help. He received no answer. He listened, too.

"This is a most unpleasant business for all parties," he concluded,
sinking into his chair again, hunching his shoulders and regarding the
flames. He seemed to speak to himself, and Rodney and Cassandra looked
at him in silence.

"Why don't you sit down?" he said suddenly. He spoke gruffly, but the
force of his anger was evidently spent, or some preoccupation had
turned his mood to other regions. While Cassandra accepted his
invitation, Rodney remained standing.

"I think Cassandra can explain matters better in my absence," he said,
and left the room, Mr. Hilbery giving his assent by a slight nod of
the head.

Meanwhile, in the dining-room next door, Denham and Katharine were
once more seated at the mahogany table. They seemed to be continuing a
conversation broken off in the middle, as if each remembered the
precise point at which they had been interrupted, and was eager to go
on as quickly as possible. Katharine, having interposed a short
account of the interview with her father, Denham made no comment, but
said:

"Anyhow, there's no reason why we shouldn't see each other."

"Or stay together. It's only marriage that's out of the question,"
Katharine replied.

"But if I find myself coming to want you more and more?"

"If our lapses come more and more often?"

He sighed impatiently, and said nothing for a moment.

"But at least," he renewed, "we've established the fact that my lapses
are still in some odd way connected with you; yours have nothing to do
with me. Katharine," he added, his assumption of reason broken up by
his agitation, "I assure you that we are in love--what other people
call love. Remember that night. We had no doubts whatever then. We
were absolutely happy for half an hour. You had no lapse until the day
after; I had no lapse until yesterday morning. We've been happy at
intervals all day until I--went off my head, and you, quite naturally,
were bored."

"Ah," she exclaimed, as if the subject chafed her, "I can't make you
understand. It's not boredom--I'm never bored. Reality--reality," she
ejaculated, tapping her finger upon the table as if to emphasize and
perhaps explain her isolated utterance of this word. "I cease to be
real to you. It's the faces in a storm again--the vision in a
hurricane. We come together for a moment and we part. It's my fault,
too. I'm as bad as you are--worse, perhaps."

They were trying to explain, not for the first time, as their weary
gestures and frequent interruptions showed, what in their common
language they had christened their "lapses"; a constant source of
distress to them, in the past few days, and the immediate reason why
Ralph was on his way to leave the house when Katharine, listening
anxiously, heard him and prevented him. What was the cause of these
lapses? Either because Katharine looked more beautiful, or more
strange, because she wore something different, or said something
unexpected, Ralph's sense of her romance welled up and overcame him
either into silence or into inarticulate expressions, which Katharine,
with unintentional but invariable perversity, interrupted or
contradicted with some severity or assertion of prosaic fact. Then the
vision disappeared, and Ralph expressed vehemently in his turn the
conviction that he only loved her shadow and cared nothing for her
reality. If the lapse was on her side it took the form of gradual
detachment until she became completely absorbed in her own thoughts,
which carried her away with such intensity that she sharply resented
any recall to her companion's side. It was useless to assert that
these trances were always originated by Ralph himself, however little
in their later stages they had to do with him. The fact remained that
she had no need of him and was very loath to be reminded of him. How,
then, could they be in love? The fragmentary nature of their
relationship was but too apparent.

Thus they sat depressed to silence at the dining-room table, oblivious
of everything, while Rodney paced the drawing-room overhead in such
agitation and exaltation of mind as he had never conceived possible,
and Cassandra remained alone with her uncle. Ralph, at length, rose
and walked gloomily to the window. He pressed close to the pane.
Outside were truth and freedom and the immensity only to be
apprehended by the mind in loneliness, and never communicated to
another. What worse sacrilege was there than to attempt to violate
what he perceived by seeking to impart it? Some movement behind him
made him reflect that Katharine had the power, if she chose, to be in
person what he dreamed of her spirit. He turned sharply to implore her
help, when again he was struck cold by her look of distance, her
expression of intentness upon some far object. As if conscious of his
look upon her she rose and came to him, standing close by his side,
and looking with him out into the dusky atmosphere. Their physical
closeness was to him a bitter enough comment upon the distance between
their minds. Yet distant as she was, her presence by his side
transformed the world. He saw himself performing wonderful deeds of
courage; saving the drowning, rescuing the forlorn. Impatient with
this form of egotism, he could not shake off the conviction that
somehow life was wonderful, romantic, a master worth serving so long
as she stood there. He had no wish that she should speak; he did not
look at her or touch her; she was apparently deep in her own thoughts
and oblivious of his presence.

The door opened without their hearing the sound. Mr. Hilbery looked
round the room, and for a moment failed to discover the two figures in
the window. He started with displeasure when he saw them, and observed
them keenly before he appeared able to make up his mind to say
anything. He made a movement finally that warned them of his presence;
they turned instantly. Without speaking, he beckoned to Katharine to
come to him, and, keeping his eyes from the region of the room where
Denham stood, he shepherded her in front of him back to the study.
When Katharine was inside the room he shut the study door carefully
behind him as if to secure himself from something that he disliked.

"Now, Katharine," he said, taking up his stand in front of the fire,
"you will, perhaps, have the kindness to explain--" She remained
silent. "What inferences do you expect me to draw?" he said
sharply. . . . "You tell me that you are not engaged to Rodney; I see
you on what appear to be extremely intimate terms with another--with
Ralph Denham. What am I to conclude? Are you," he added, as she still
said nothing, "engaged to Ralph Denham?"

"No," she replied.

His sense of relief was great; he had been certain that her answer
would have confirmed his suspicions, but that anxiety being set at
rest, he was the more conscious of annoyance with her for her
behavior.

"Then all I can say is that you've very strange ideas of the proper
way to behave. . . . People have drawn certain conclusions, nor am I
surprised. . . . The more I think of it the more inexplicable I find
it," he went on, his anger rising as he spoke. "Why am I left in
ignorance of what is going on in my own house? Why am I left to hear
of these events for the first time from my sister? Most disagreeable--
most upsetting. How I'm to explain to your Uncle Francis--but I wash
my hands of it. Cassandra goes tomorrow. I forbid Rodney the house. As
for the other young man, the sooner he makes himself scarce the
better. After placing the most implicit trust in you, Katharine--" He
broke off, disquieted by the ominous silence with which his words were
received, and looked at his daughter with the curious doubt as to her
state of mind which he had felt before, for the first time, this
evening. He perceived once more that she was not attending to what he
said, but was listening, and for a moment he, too, listened for sounds
outside the room. His certainty that there was some understanding
between Denham and Katharine returned, but with a most unpleasant
suspicion that there was something illicit about it, as the whole
position between the young people seemed to him gravely illicit.

"I'll speak to Denham," he said, on the impulse of his suspicion,
moving as if to go.

"I shall come with you," Katharine said instantly, starting forward.

"You will stay here," said her father.

"What are you going to say to him?" she asked.

"I suppose I may say what I like in my own house?" he returned.

"Then I go, too," she replied.

At these words, which seemed to imply a determination to go--to go for
ever, Mr. Hilbery returned to his position in front of the fire, and
began swaying slightly from side to side without for the moment making
any remark.

"I understood you to say that you were not engaged to him," he said at
length, fixing his eyes upon his daughter.

"We are not engaged," she said.

"It should be a matter of indifference to you, then, whether he comes
here or not--I will not have you listening to other things when I am
speaking to you!" he broke off angrily, perceiving a slight movement
on her part to one side. "Answer me frankly, what is your relationship
with this young man?"

"Nothing that I can explain to a third person," she said obstinately.

"I will have no more of these equivocations," he replied.

"I refuse to explain," she returned, and as she said it the front door
banged to. "There!" she exclaimed. "He is gone!" She flashed such a
look of fiery indignation at her father that he lost his self-control
for a moment.

"For God's sake, Katharine, control yourself!" he cried.

She looked for a moment like a wild animal caged in a civilized
dwelling-place. She glanced over the walls covered with books, as if
for a second she had forgotten the position of the door. Then she made
as if to go, but her father laid his hand upon her shoulder. He
compelled her to sit down.

"These emotions have been very upsetting, naturally," he said. His
manner had regained all its suavity, and he spoke with a soothing
assumption of paternal authority. "You've been placed in a very
difficult position, as I understand from Cassandra. Now let us come to
terms; we will leave these agitating questions in peace for the
present. Meanwhile, let us try to behave like civilized beings. Let us
read Sir Walter Scott. What d'you say to 'The Antiquary,' eh? Or 'The
Bride of Lammermoor'?"

He made his own choice, and before his daughter could protest or make
her escape, she found herself being turned by the agency of Sir Walter
Scott into a civilized human being.

Yet Mr. Hilbery had grave doubts, as he read, whether the process was
more than skin-deep. Civilization had been very profoundly and
unpleasantly overthrown that evening; the extent of the ruin was still
undetermined; he had lost his temper, a physical disaster not to be
matched for the space of ten years or so; and his own condition
urgently required soothing and renovating at the hands of the
classics. His house was in a state of revolution; he had a vision of
unpleasant encounters on the staircase; his meals would be poisoned
for days to come; was literature itself a specific against such
disagreeables? A note of hollowness was in his voice as he read.

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

Night And Day - Chapter 33 Night And Day - Chapter 33

Night And Day - Chapter 33
Considering that Mr. Hilbery lived in a house which was accuratelynumbered in order with its fellows, and that he filled up forms, paidrent, and had seven more years of tenancy to run, he had an excuse forlaying down laws for the conduct of those who lived in his house, andthis excuse, though profoundly inadequate, he found useful during theinterregnum of civilization with which he now found himself faced. Inobedience to those laws, Rodney disappeared; Cassandra was dispatchedto catch the eleven-thirty on Monday morning; Denham was seen no more;so that only Katharine, the lawful occupant of the upper rooms,remained, and Mr. Hilbery
PREVIOUS BOOKS

Night And Day - Chapter 31 Night And Day - Chapter 31

Night And Day - Chapter 31
The tray which brought Katharine's cup of tea the next morningbrought, also, a note from her mother, announcing that it was herintention to catch an early train to Stratford-on-Avon that very day."Please find out the best way of getting there," the note ran, "andwire to dear Sir John Burdett to expect me, with my love. I've beendreaming all night of you and Shakespeare, dearest Katharine."This was no momentary impulse. Mrs. Hilbery had been dreaming ofShakespeare any time these six months, toying with the idea of anexcursion to what she considered the heart of the civilized world. Tostand six feet above Shakespeare's
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT