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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTristram Of Blent - Chapter 27. Before Translation
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Tristram Of Blent - Chapter 27. Before Translation Post by :bjorn Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Hope Date :May 2012 Read :1423

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Tristram Of Blent - Chapter 27. Before Translation

CHAPTER XXVII. BEFORE TRANSLATION

Harry Tristram had come back to Blent in the mood which belonged to the place as of old--the mood that claimed as his right what had become his by love, knew no scruples if only he could gain and keep it, was ready to play a bold game and take a great chance. He did not argue about what he was going to do. He did not justify it, and perhaps could not. Yet to him what he purposed was so clearly the best thing that Cecily must be forced into it. She could not be forced by force; if he told her the truth, he would meet at the outset a resistance which he could not quell. He might encounter that after all, later on, in spite of a present success. That was the great risk he was determined to run. At the worst there would be something gained; if she were and would be nothing else, she should and must at least be mistress of Blent. His imagination had set her in that place; his pride, no less than his love, demanded it for her. He had gone away once that she might have it. If need be, again he would go away. That stood for decision later.

She walked slowly to the end of the Long Gallery and sat down in the great arm-chair; it held its old position in spite of the changes which Harry noted with quick eyes and a suppressed smile as he followed her and set his candle on a table near. He lit two more from it and then turned to her. She was pale and defiant.

"Well," she said, "why are you here?"

She asked and he gave no excuse for the untimely hour of his visit and no explanation of it. It seemed a small, perhaps indeed a natural, thing to both of them.

"I'm here because I couldn't keep away," he answered gravely, standing before her.

"You promised to keep away. Can't you keep promises?"

"No, not such promises as that."

"And so you make my life impossible! You see this room, you see how I've changed it? I've been changing everything I could. Why? To forget you, to blot you out, to be rid of you. I've been bringing myself to take my place. To-night I seemed at last to be winning my way to it. Now you come. You gave me all this; why do you make it impossible to me?" A bright color came on her cheeks now as she grew vehement in her reproaches, and her voice was intense, though low.

A luxury of joy swept over him as he listened. Every taunt witnessed to his power, every reproach to her love. He played a trick indeed and a part, but there was no trick and no acting in so far as he was her lover. If that truth could not redeem his deception, it stifled all sense of guilt.

"And you were forgetting? You were getting rid of me?" he asked, smiling and fixing his eyes on her.

"Perhaps. And now----!" She made a gesture of despair. "Tell me--why have you come?" Her tone changed to entreaty.

"I've come because I must be where you are, because I was mad to send you away before, mad not to come to you before, to think I could live without you, not to see that we two must be together; because you're everything to me." He had come nearer to her now and stood by her. "Ever since I went away I have seen you in this room, in that chair. I think it was your ghost only that came to town." He laughed a moment. "I wouldn't have the ghost. I didn't know why. Now I know. I wanted the you that was here--the real you--as you had been on the night I went away. So I've come back to you. We're ourselves here, Cecily. We Tristrams are ourselves at Blent."

She had listened silently, her eyes on his. She seemed bewildered by the sudden rush of his passion and the enraptured eagerness of his words that made her own vehemence sound to her poor and thin. Pride had its share in her protest, love was the sole spring of his intensity. Yet she was puzzled by the victorious light in his eyes. What he said, what he came to do, was such a surrender as she had never hoped from him; and he was triumphant in surrendering!

The thought flashed through her mind, troubling her and for the time hindering her joy in his confession. She did not trust him yet.

"I've had an offer made to me," he resumed, regaining his composure. "A sort of political post. If I accept it I shall have to leave England for a considerable time, almost immediately. That brought the thing to a point." Again he laughed. "It's important to you too; because if you say no to me to-night, you'll be rid of me for ever so long. Your life won't be made impossible. I shouldn't come to Blent again."

"A post that would take you away?" she murmured.

"Yes. You'd be left here in peace. I've not come to blackmail you into loving me, Cecily. Yes, you shall be left in peace to move the furniture about." Glancing toward the table, he saw Mr Gainsborough's birthday gift. He took it up, looked at it for a moment, and then replaced it. His manner was involuntarily expressive. Even if she brought that sort of thing to Blent----! He turned back at the sound of a little laugh from Cecily and found her eyes sparkling.

"Father's birthday present, Harry," said she.

Delighted with her mirth, he came to her, holding out his hands. She shook her head and leant back, looking at him.

"Sit as my mother did. You know. Yes, like that!" he cried.

She had obeyed him with a smile. Not to be denied now, he seized the hand that lay in her lap.

"A birthday! Yes, of course, you're twenty-one! Really mistress of it all now! And you don't know what to do with it, except spoil the arrangement of the furniture?"

She laughed low and luxuriously. "What am I to do with it?" she asked.

"Well, won't you give it all to me?" As he spoke he laughed and kissed her hand. "I've come to ask you for it. Here I am. I've come fortune-hunting to-night."

"It's all mine now, you say? Harry, take it without me."

"If I did, I'd burn it to the ground that it mightn't remind me of you."

"Yes, yes! That's what I've wanted to do!" she exclaimed, drawing her hand out of his and raising her arms a moment in the air. Addie Tristram's pose was gone, but Harry did not miss it now.

"Take it without you indeed! It's all for you and because of you."

"Really, really?" She grew grave. "Harry, dear, for pity's sake tell me if you love me!"

"Haven't I told you?" he cried gayly. "Where are the poets? Oh, for some good quotations! I'm infernally unpoetical, I know. Is this it--that you're always before my eyes, always in my head, that you're terribly in the way, that when I've got anything worth thinking I think it to you, anything worth doing I do it for you, anything good to say I say it to you? Is this it, that I curse myself and curse you? Is this it, that I know myself only as your lover and that if I'm not that, then I seem nothing at all? I've never been in love before, but all that sounds rather like it."

"And you'll take Blent from me?"

"Yes, as the climax of all, I'll take Blent from you."

To her it seemed the climax, the thing she found hardest to believe, the best evidence for the truth of those extravagant words which sounded so sweet in her ears. Harry saw this, but he held on his way. Nay, now he himself forgot his trick, and could still have gone on had there been none, had he in truth been accepting Blent from her hands. Even at the price of pride he would have had her now.

She rose suddenly, and began to walk to and fro across the end of the room, while he stood by the table watching her.

"Well, isn't it time you said something to me?" he suggested with a smile.

"Give me time, Harry, give me time. The world's all changed to-night. You--yes, you came suddenly out of the darkness of the night"--she waved her hand toward the window--"and changed the world for me. How am I to believe it? And if I can believe it, what can I say? Let me alone for a minute, Harry dear."

He was well content to wait and watch. All time seemed before them, and how better could he fill it? He seemed himself to suffer in this hour a joyful transformation; to know better why men lived and loved to live, to reach out to the full strength and the full function of his being. The world changed for him as he changed it for her.

Twice and thrice she had paced the gallery before she came and stood opposite to him. She put her hands up to her throat, saying, "I'm stifled--stifled with happiness, Harry."

For answer he sprang forward and caught her in his arms. In the movement he brushed roughly against the table; there was a little crash, and poor Mr Gainsborough's birthday gift lay smashed to bits on the floor. For the second time their love bore hard on Mr Gainsborough's crockery. Startled they turned to look, and then they both broke into merry laughter. The trumpery thing had seemed a sign to them, and now the sign was broken. Their first kiss was mirthful over its destruction.

With a sigh of joy she disengaged herself from him.

"That's settled then," said Harry. He paused a moment. "You had Janie and Bob Broadley here to-night? I saw them as I lay hidden by the road. Does that kind of engagement attract you, Cecily?"

"Ours won't be like that," she said, laughing triumphantly.

"Don't let's have one at all," he suggested, coming near to her again. "Let's have no engagement. Just a wedding."

"What?" she cried.

"It must be a beastly time," he went on, "and all the talk there's been about us will make it more beastly still. Fancy Miss S. and all the rest of them! And--do you particularly want to wait? What I want is to be settled down, here with you."

Her eyes sparkled as she listened; she was in the mood, she was of the stuff, for any adventure.

"I should like to run off with you now," said he. "I don't want to leave you at all, you see."

"Run off now?" She gave a joyful little laugh. "That's just what I should like!"

"Then we'll do it," he declared. "Well, to-morrow morning anyhow."

"Do you mean it?" she asked.

"Do you say no to it?"

She drew herself up with pride. "I say no to nothing that you ask of me."

Their hands met again as she declared her love and trust. "You've really come to me?" he heard her murmur. "Back to Blent and back to me?"

"Yes," he answered, smiling. She had brought into his mind again the truth she did not know. He had no time to think of it, for she offered him her lips again. The moment when he might have told her thus went by. It was but an impulse; for he still loved what he was doing, and took delight in the risks of it. And he could not bear so to impair her joy. Soon she must know, but she should not yet be robbed of her joy that it was she who could bring him back to Blent. For him in his knowledge, for her in her ignorance, there was an added richness of pleasure that he would not throw away, even although now he believed that were the truth known she would come to him still. Must not that be, since now he, even he, would come to her, though the truth had been otherwise?

"There's a train from Fillingford at eight in the morning. I'm going back there to-night. I've got a fly waiting by the Pool--if the man hasn't gone to sleep and the horse run away. Will you meet me there? We'll go up to town and be married as soon as we can--the day after to-morrow, I suppose."

"And then----?"

"Oh, then just come back here. We can go nowhere but here, Cecily."

"Just come back and----?"

"And let them find it out, and talk, and talk, and talk!" he laughed.

"It would be delightful!" she cried.

"Nobody to know till it's done!"

"Yes, yes, I like it like that. Not father even, though?"

"You'll be gone before he's up. Leave a line for him."

"But I--I can't go alone with you."

"Why not?" asked Harry, seeming a trifle vexed.

"I'll tell you!" she cried. "Let's take Mina with us, Harry!"

He laughed; the Imp was the one person whose presence he was ready to endure. Indeed there would perhaps be a piquancy in that.

"All right. An elopement made respectable by Mina!" He had a touch of scorn even for mitigated respectability.

"Shall we call her and tell her now?"

"Well, are you tired of this interview?"

"I don't know whether I want it to go on, or whether I must go and tell somebody about it."

"I shouldn't hesitate," smiled Harry.

"You? No. But I--Oh, Harry dear, I want to whisper my triumph."

"But we must be calm and business-like about it now."

"Yes!" She entered eagerly into the fun. "That'll puzzle Mina even more."

"We're not doing anything unusual," he insisted with affected gravity.

"No--not for our family at least."

"It's just the obvious thing to do."

"Oh, it's just the delicious thing too!" She almost danced in gayety. "Let me call Mina. Do!"

"Not for a moment, as you love me! Give me a moment more."

"Oh, Harry, there'll be no end to that!"

"I don't know why there should be."

"We should miss the train at Fillingford!"

"Ah, if it means that!"

"Or I shall come sleepy and ugly to it; and you'd leave me on the platform and go away!"

"Shout for Mina--now--without another word!"

"Oh, just one more," she pleaded, laughing.

"I can't promise to be moderate."

"Come, we'll go and find her. Give me your hand." She caught his hand in hers, and snatched the candle from the table. She held it high above her head, looking round the room and back to his eyes again. "My home now, because my love is here," she said. "Mine and yours, and yours and mine--and both the same thing, Harry, now."

He listened smiling. Yes, it would be the same thing now.

There they stood together for a moment, and together they sighed as they turned away. To them the room was sacred now, as it had always been beautiful; in it their love seemed to lie enshrined.

They went downstairs together full of merriment, the surface expression of their joy. "Look grave," he whispered, setting his face in a comical exaggeration of seriousness. Cecily tried to obey and tumbled into a gurgle of delight.

"I will directly," she gasped as they came to the hall. Mason stood there waiting.

"I've put the sandwiches here, and the old brown, my Lord."

Harry alone noticed the slip in his address--and Harry took no notice of it.

"I shall be glad to meet the old brown again," he said, smiling. Mason gave the pair a benevolent glance and withdrew to his quarters.

Mina strolled out of the library with an accidental air. Harry had sat down to his sandwiches and old brown. Cecily ran across to Mina and kissed her.

"We're going to be married!" she whispered. She had told it all in a sentence; yet she added; "Oh, I've such a heap of things to tell you, Mina!" Was not all that scene in the Long Gallery to be reproduced--doubtless only in a faint adumbration of its real glory, yet with a sense of recovering it and living it again?

"No?" cried Mina. "Oh, how splendid! Soon?"

Harry threw a quick glance at Cecily. She responded by assuming a demure calmness of demeanor.

"Not as soon as we could wish," said Harry, munching and sipping. "In fact, not before the day after to-morrow, I'm afraid, Madame Zabriska."

"The day after----?"

"What I have always hated is Government interference. Why can't I be married when I like? Why have I to get a license and all that nonsense? Why must I wait till the day after to-morrow?" He grew indignant.

"It's past twelve now; it is to-morrow," said Cecily.

"Quite so. As you suggest, Cecily, we could be married to-day but for these absurd restrictions. There's a train at eight from Fillingford----"

"You're going--both of you--by that?" Mina cried.

"I hope it suits you, because we want you to come with us, if you'll be so kind," said Harry.

"You see it would look just a little unusual if we went alone," added Cecily.

"And it's not going to look unusual anyhow? Are you mad? Or--or do you mean it?"

"Don't you think both may be true?" asked Harry. Cecily's gravity broke down. She kissed Mina again, laughing in an abandonment of exultation.

"Oh, you're both mad!"

"Not at all. You're judging us by the standard of your other engaged couple to-night."

"Did Mr Neeld know anything about your coming?" Mina demanded, with a sudden recollection.

"Nothing at all. Did he say anything to you?" For a moment the glass of old brown halted on its way to his lips, and he glanced at Mina sharply.

"No. But when I asked him if he had seen you he looked--well, just rather funny."

The old brown resumed its progress. Harry was content.

"There's no better meal than fresh sandwiches and old brown," he observed. "You'll come with us, won't you, and keep Cecily company at the little house till we fix it up?"

Mina looked from one to the other in new amazement, with all her old excited pleasure in the Tristram ways. They did a thing--and they did not spoil it by explanations.

"And Mr Gainsborough?" she asked.

"We're going to leave a note for father," smiled Cecily.

"You're always doing that," objected Mina.

"It seems rather an early train for Mr Gainsborough," Harry suggested, laying down his napkin.

"Oh, why don't you tell me something about it?" cried Mina despairingly. "But it's true? The great thing's true anyhow, isn't it?"

"Well, what do you think I came down from town for?" inquired Harry.

"And why have we been so long in the Gallery, Mina?"

"You've given in then?" exclaimed the Imp, pointing a finger in triumph at Harry.

"Mina, how can you say a thing like that?"

"It looks as if it were true enough," admitted Harry. "Really I must go," he added. "I can't keep that fly all night. I shall see you in the morning, Madame Zabriska. Eight o'clock at Fillingford!"

"I'm really to go with you?" she gasped.

"Yes, yes, I thought all that was settled," said he, rather impatiently. "Bring a pretty frock. I want my wedding to be done handsomely--in a style that suits the wedding of----" He looked at Cecily--"of Lady Tristram of Blent."

"Cecily, it's not all a joke?"

"Yes!" cried Cecily. "All a delicious delicious joke! But we're going to be married."

After a moment's hesitation Mina came across to Harry, holding out her hands. "I'm glad, I'm so glad," she murmured, with a little catch in her voice.

He took her hands and pressed them; he looked at her very kindly, though he smiled still.

"Yes, it undoes all the mistakes, doesn't it?" he said. "At least I hope it will," he added the next moment with a laugh.

"It's really the only way to be married," declared Cecily.

"Well, for you people--for you extraordinary Tristrams--I dare say it is," said Mina.

"You'll come?" Cecily implored.

"She couldn't keep away," mocked Harry. "She's got to see the end of us."

"Yes, and our new beginning. Oh, what Blent's going to be, Mina! If you don't come with us now, we won't let you stay at Merrion."

"I'm coming," said Mina. Indeed she would not have stayed away. If she had needed further inducement the next moment supplied it.

"You're to be our only confidant," said Harry.

"Yes! Till it's all over, nobody's to know but you, Mina."

The Imp was hit on her weak spot. She was tremulously eager to go.

"Eight o'clock! Oh, can we be ready, Cecily?"

"Of course we shall be ready," said Cecily scornfully.

Harry had taken his hat from the table and came up to shake hands. He was imperturbably calm and business-like.

"Don't run it too fine," he said. "Good-night, Madame Zabriska."

She gave him her hand and he held it for a moment. He grew a little grave, but there was still a twinkle in his eye.

"You're a good friend," he said. "I shall come on you again, if I want you, you know." He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.

"I don't know that I care much about anything except you two," stammered Mina.

He gripped her hand again. She seemed well paid. He held out his hand to Cecily. Mina understood.

"I shall be up a little while, Cecily. Come to me before you go to bed," she said; and she stood in the hall, watching them as they walked out together. There was joy in her heart--ay, and envy. The two brought tears to her eyes and struggled which should make the better claim to them. "But they do like me!" she said in a plaintive yet glad little cry, as she was left alone in the silent old hall.

So still was the night that a man might hear the voice of his heart and a girl the throb of hers. And they were alone; or only the friendly murmur of old Blent was with them, seeming to whisper congratulations on their joy. Her arm was through his, very white on his sleeve, and she leant on him heavily.

"After tempests, dear," said he.

"There shall be no more, no more, Harry."

"Oh, I don't know that. I shall like you in them perhaps. And there may be one more, anyhow."

"You're laughing, Harry?"

"Why, yes, at anything just now."

"Yes, at anything," she murmured. "I could laugh--or cry--at anything just now."

They came to the little bridge and passed on to it.

"We talked here the first evening," said she. "And how you puzzled me! It began for me then, dear Harry."

"Yes, and for me a little sooner--by the Pool for me. I was keeping you out of your own then."

"Never mine unless it could be yours too."

Fallen into silence again, they reached the road and, moved by the same instinct, turned to look back at Blent. The grip of her hand tightened on his arm.

"There's nothing that would make you leave me?" she whispered.

"Not you yourself, I think," said he.

"It's very wonderful," she breathed. "Listen! There's no sound. Yes, after tempests, Harry!"

"I am glad of it all," he said suddenly and in a louder tone. "I've been made a man, and I've found you, the woman for me. It was hard at the time, but I am glad of it. It has come and it has gone, and I'm glad of it."

He had spoken unwarily in saying it was gone. But she thought he spoke of his struggle only and his hesitation, not of their cause.

"You gave when you might have kept; it is always yours, Harry. Oh, and what is it all now? No, no, it's something still. It's in us--in us both, I think."

He stopped on the road.

"Come no farther. The fly's only a little way on, and while I see you, I will see nobody else to-night. Till the morning, dearest--and you won't fail?"

"No, I won't fail. Should I fail to greet my first morning?"

He pushed the hair a little back from her forehead and kissed her brow.

"God do so unto me and more also if my love ever fails you," said he. "Kiss me as I kissed you. And so good-night."

She obeyed and let him go. Once and twice he looked back at her as he took his way and she stood still on the road. She heard his voice speaking to the flyman, the flyman's exhortation to his horse, the sounds of the wheels receding along the road. Then slowly she went back.

"This is what they mean," she murmured to herself. "This is what they mean." It was the joy past expression, the contentment past understanding. And all in one evening they had sprung up for her out of a barren thirsty land. Blent had never been beautiful before nor the river sparkled as it ran; youth was not known before, and beauty had been thrown away. The world was changed; and it was very wonderful.

When Cecily went into her the Imp was packing; with critical care she stowed her smartest frock in the trunk.

"I must be up early and see about the carriage," she remarked. "I dare say Mason----. But you're not listening, Cecily!"

"No, I wasn't listening," said Cecily, scorning apology or excuse.

"You people in love are very silly. That's the plain English of it," observed Mina loftily.

Cecily looked at her a minute, then stretched her arms and sighed in luxurious weariness. "I dare say that's the plain English of it," she admitted. "But, oh, how different it sounds before translation, dear!"

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