in the world, and want to marry her to spend
his whole life with her? Only the terrible
mistake that had been made for her she had
not made it for herself stood between her and
that great happiness. But she could not dwell
on the mistake now, for the intoxication of the
moment rose above her knowledge of the im-
possibilities. Never once in her whole life had
she been loved before her cheeks burnt for
joy and shame together while she remembered
it. Was it wrong ? How could it be this
thing that was true ? Neither he nor she
would do anything wrong for the world.
Then she remembered his coldness, and her
heart stood still ; perhaps he would refuse to
be friends again the friends they had been.
She did not think she could bear that. And
yet, for she lelt that she must look things in the
face, suppose he did remain distant and angry ?
It would break her heart. She could be con-
tent knowing that he loved her and disguised
his love with friendship, though they were a
24:0 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
thousand miles apart, but not if he were
changed towards her. But of course he would
change towards her if she declared she loved
him and yet refused to marry him. What
could he think but that she did not care for
him so much as for her liberty, or so much as
he did for her he who wanted her for his
whole life? She seemed to live hours while
one possibility after another presented itself to
her whirling brain. In the first moment of
wild excitement she had had an idea that he
would forget his proposal after a little while,
and go back to the old footing, and they would
be closer, happier friends than ever, with the
exquisite knowledge at their hearts that they
loved each other. " But no, no ! " she shook
her head, and realised that they could never go
back to it. Something in space that was like
a whisper from the world told her so. They
would remember that morning all their lives,
and hunger for more than had before contented
them. "And we might have been so happy,
life might have been such a wonderful thing !
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 241
It is for people who feel as we do that mar-
riage was made, not for cruel or worldly peo-
ple to gain money or position by," and she
burst into passionate tears. " I ought to tell
him ! It would be fairer it would be right-
even though it kills me, he ought to know ! "
But her courage failed her as she said it. He
would think her so wicked, and never under-
stand how she, a girl who had travelled alone
to Italy and unafraid of the world, had been
kept down and cowed in the old Shooter's Hill
days. He would never understand the insults
and sneers, apart from the blows that had
brought about the crisis of Montague Place.
Then the Mummy. She would have to
know, and had she not said that nothing jus-
tified a woman in leaving her husband ? They
would send her back the Mummy and Jim
they would despise her and send her back.
Perhaps they would think it a duty to write
to Mr. Belcher. Her heart grew cold at the
thought. She felt that she would rather live
any lonely or miserable life that could be de-
A FLASH OF SUMMER.
vised for her on this earth than go back to Mr.
Belcher. She would infinitely rather die. She
got up and stood by the bed, looking out dis-
mayed into space. The great joy of earth had
come to her the joy of being loved by the man
to whom her heart was given, but it brought
her only trouble and difficulty ; she had to put
it aside for the sake of a tie that was only an
idea. All trace of her marriage to Mr. Belcher
had vanished so completely from her surround-
ings, and even from her thoughts of late, that
it had become like a dream to her, or like a
nightmare that would only return to a sleeper
who dared to shut his eyes. " Oh, life is the
strangest thing in the world," she said to her-
self, and looked out of the window for a mo-
ment almost beseechingly, as if asking the
world she saw from it to give her counsel.
Then the door opened, and Miss Bennett
looked in. She was pale and haggard. Kath-
erine saw it with a start, and chokingly pushed
her own interests aside.
" Oh, Miss Bennett ! " she said, " I meant
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 243
to have gone to you this morning, but we went
out early to make that sketch from the top. I
fear we didn't get much done," and she looked
ruefully at the block she had thrown carelessly
on the table ; " but I will try and finish it to-
morrow. Sit here by the window, you look so
" I have had a pleasant surprise and wanted
to tell you. Never mind about the sketch. I
daresay I should only give it away," she added,
with her usual lack of graciousness. " I am
going from here in a few days in fact, as soon
as I can get away," and a smile broke over her
" Something has happened to you," Kath-
erine said wonderingly - " something that
" Yes, it has. Perhaps it will please you,
too, for you offered to lend me your money."
" I wish you had taken it."
Miss Bennett shook her head. " I couldn't
take it from a girl. You may have little
enough, for all I know. This morning I had
244: A FLASH OF SUMMER.
a letter. Look ! " She took a registered en-
velope from her pocket. It contained bank-
notes for a hundred pounds ; on a sheet of
paper that enclosed them were the words,
With best wishes. Katherine felt a throb of
joy go through her, for she understood Jim
had done it, she was certain of it. She remem-
bered the expression on his face the other
night, when he said that it must be a bad
thing to be dying and stranded ; and his
mother had often told her of his easy gener-
osity. Oh. yes, it was he beyond all doubt.
She counted up the days that had intervened
the days of bad weather since that talk to
which he had never afterwards alluded. There
had been just time for him to write home and
direct the money to be sent in this manner.
" Yes, it is Jim, 1 ' she said to herself, while the
tears came into her eyes. "It is like you, and
I am proud of you, and love you. Oh ! you
must never know how I have deceived you. I
will go away at once." She almost started at
the idea it would solve so many difficulties.
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 245
Then she stooped and kissed Miss Bennett
from sheer gratitude, for had not the sick wom-
an given her the knowledge of this good deed \
" I don't know where they came from," Miss
Bennett said. " They may be a gift, or the
payment of a debt. I had just fifty pounds
left, and had written home for it. Now, per-
haps, I shall have enough left, when my bill is
paid, to last me till I die."
Someone walked along the corridor outside,
half hesitated, and went downstairs. Kather-
ine felt certain that it was Jim ; she knew his
" Oh, don't talk of dying," she said gently.
"Life is sweet at its worst, and you may get
well. Tell me where you are going."
" To Italy. Perhaps I shall live through
the winter. When I am much worse my sis-
ter will come, but she will not be able to stay
Katherine knew what she meant. This
planned meeting of life and death made her
24:6 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
u But where, precisely, are you go-
ing?" she asked. "And are you going
alone ? "
" There is a woman I know she has a little
pension on the Italian Riviera at Alassio. It
is just a little place, and hardly anyone has
heard of it. She and I have known each other
for years, and she does not talk. I want to be
with someone who is silent."
" But you can't go alone ?"
"I must, and this money makes it pos-
"Let me take you ? " Katherine exclaimed.
" I am going from here ; I want to go. Oh, do
let me take you. I couldn't bear to think of
you on your way alone."
"I thought you were going to marry Mrs.
"No, that is impossible; and they are go-
ing home very soon. Let me take you to
Alassio ; I won't talk ; I will be very silent.
And I want to go to some little Italian place-
that has been my intention, but it must be a
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 247
place where there are no English at all. Per-
haps I might find one near you ; then I should
see you sometimes in the winter."
"I should like to see you ; you are a good
girl, and mean well," Miss Bennett said, and
Katherine heard her with infinite gratitude.
u There is an hotel half a mile out of Alassio,
low down on the shore. It has an orange gar-
den, the largest one I know, and the moun-
tains rise up beyond. It might do for you,
and I have heard that it is cheap : women who
are alone never have any money," she added
with grim sarcasm. "Or a mile farther on is
Laigueglia. There are no English there, and
very few Italians only a cracked white marble
church, a few ruined houses, and desolate gar-
" When shall you be ready to go ? "
Miss Bennett answered quickly : "Directly
in a day or two as soon as I have packed
my things ; they will not take long there are
only those two little boxes. But if you can't
be ready so soon I will wait. After all, it
248 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
doesn't matter," and her momentary excite-
ment died away.
" I will tell you after lunch, or at tea-time
if that will do, when I can be ready." Kath-
erine followed the direction of Miss Bennett's
eyes and saw Jim Alford taking the downward
path towards Mendrisio. ' ' Perhaps he is go-
ing away to avoid me," she thought, catching
her breath. "I will go when you like," she
said, turning to Miss Bennett. "Hark! there
is the luncheon bell. Let us go down," she
Mrs. Alford was taking her place at table.
"Has Jim gone away?" Katherine asked
"No, my dear," the old lady said, looking
up with mild surprise ; "he has only gone out
for a couple of hours because he wanted to be
alone. He will be teck by three o'clock ; but
he talks of going to Milan for a few days.
I wish he would wait for me," she added.
"This is quite a sudden freak."
"I will go first," Katherine thought.
" BUT, my dear," Mrs. Alford said bewil-
dered, ' ' Jim will be miserable when you are
gone, and so shall I." This was a conple of
hours after lunch, while they sat together in
the sitting-room that had gradually become
u You will have him to take care of you,"
Katherine answered; "he has only a few
months more to be with you. They will be
better without a third person, dear Mummy ;
and I must journey on. Some day I shall see
you again, I hope."
u But you may not see him again for
"I know," she said, in a voice that she
could not keep steady, for though she had
250 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
faced this possibility in her own room, it was
harder to hear it put into words they brought
her knowledge of how difficult it would be to
tear her life away from his. What ! never to
see him again or to hear his laugh, or walk be-
side him, or to read Browning had he not
told her how dangerous it was ? He was going
back to England and then to India, and she-
Heaven alone knew where ; and the beginning
of this state of things was only a day or two
distant : it came upon her with an overwhelm-
ing sense that was not to be borne. She could
not live entirely without him. They must be
friends, very great friends. Nothing else was
possible, and even that was almost impossible
while the secret of her life remained one. "I
don't suppose," she went on in a dazed voice,
" I shall ever see him again after I leave here."
"Tell me," said the old lady, taking her
hands and trying to look into her face, "tell
me why you are going is my boy nothing to
you? I have been hoping that you were a
great deal to each other."
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 251
Katherine hesitated for a moment, and then
answered simply and out of a full heart, U I
think there is no one in the wide world like
him, but it can't make any difference, Mummy
dear. I can never go to England again while I
"Were you treated so very cruelly, my
" I was very miserable there," she answered,
and she thought : " Oh, if I could only tell her
if I could only tell her ! But she would
never forgive me ; and she would send me
" But your uncle is in Australia ? "
"It makes no difference, Mummy!" for
latterly she had quite dropped the more
formal address. ' ' I want you to promise me
something it is, not to tell anyone in England
that you ever met anyone called by my
" My dear, what do you mean ? "
"Only if I were discovered I should die ;
that is why I cannot go back."
252 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
" You are not giving me all your confi-
dence," the old lady said gravely.
"No, and I cannot." There was almost
agony in her voice. "I have learnt many
things in this last year," she went on, " and
one is, that people are judged not by the in-
tention in their conduct, but by its effect."
U I do not understand you, my dear," and
Mrs. Alford drew back coldly.
"Oh, don't, don't!" Katherine cried.
"Love me a little while longer; I am going
away in two or three days ! Only while I am
here, Mummy dear, so that the memory of it
is not spoilt won't you ? " She took the old
lady's hands and kissed them. "I always
told you that I was a waif ; perhaps you had
better forget all about me when I go, as you
would about a waif who has gone on into the
distance or the crowd. Oh, here is Jim ! Jim,"
she said excitedly, "Mummy is angry with
me," and she put her arms round the old lady's
neck and kissed her. "This dear Mummy,
who has been so kind to me, kinder than any-
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 253
one else in the wide world, and given me more
happiness than I ever knew in all my life be-
fore enough to last me all my life. I have
not done any harm, dear Mummy, I have not
indeed you needn't look so coldly at me.
Jim," she said, turning to him quickly, "I
want to talk to you all by myself. I may,
may I not, dear Mummy ? Shall we go to the
farm once more, you and I, and get the cream
for tea ? They will want their tea, you know,
Jim, and we shaVt be able to go again, for I
am going away
"Going away ! "
" Yes, with Miss Bennett. I will tell you
on the way to the farm. Oh, do let us go,"
she pleaded, for she fancied that he hesitated,
u just for a last, last time along the little path-
way. I will get my hat at once." She put her
cheek lovingly against the old lady's for a mo-
ment, then fled along the corridor.
"Jim," Mrs. Alford said to her son, "I
think I know that child's secret : the Ogre ill-
treated her and she ran away."
254 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
" Well, lie is safe in Australia now and
I'll try what I can do this afternoon."
"I am ready, I am quite ready," Katherine
said, appearing at the doorway. He crossed
over to her quickly and they set off together,
down the stairs and out of the hotel and to-
wards the farm. " You are angry, I know you
are angry," she said, still speaking breathless-
ly ; "you and the Mummy are both changing
to me at the same moment."
"Changing!" he said, "when only this
morning I told you how much I loved you."
He turned and looked at her, and she saw the
expression on his face and faltered.
"And I love you, Jim, dear," she said,
looking back at him with her blue eyes full
of tears. "And I love you, God knows I do,
only indeed you mustn't ask me to marry
He shook his head. "You are not treat-
ing me fairly, Kathy," he said tenderly, but
she knew by his tone that he meant what he
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 255
" But can't you feel that I love you, can't
you hear it in my voice, don't you know it ? "
she asked desperately.
"I do," he said, " and that makes it all the
more strange. "
" Doesn't it satisfy you, as the knowledge
of your love shall satisfy me ? Why must it
be marriage or nothing at all ? " and she drew
closer to him, for they were on the narrow
pathway going towards the farm, and not a
soul was within sight nor sound of them.
" Why can't we be friends very dear friends
all our lives? We might be just like
brother and sister you never had a sister of
your very own
" Nonsense," he said, and put his arm
round her shoulder, but she shook it off
quickly. " People cannot be brothers and sis-
ters, my child, when they are in love with
u Oh, but they can; and they can be
friends. Think how much better it would be
than nothing nothing ! And if we can't
256 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
marry, and we can't for I don't want to be
married, and can't be ; and it is better to be
free we might be friends." She was almost
incoherent with nervousness. " Very dear
friends we could always be that and we
could write to each other very often, and tell
each other everything we did and thought and
read, and be everything in the world that two
people parted by long miles can be."
"All this is nonsense, Kathy. You don't
know what you are talking about, my darling.
What you say may be all very well for two
friends who desire to be nothing more ; but
you and I love each other at least I know
that I love you with all my heart," he said
simply. " I want you to come to me, to share
my life, to be with me always. And if you
loved me you would want it too."
They were within sight of the farm, and
stopped and looked at each other ; then sat
down on the little bank beside the pathway.
" I love you, and I do want it too," she said
earnestly. "But I cannot marry you, and I
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 257
think," she added, bursting into passionate
tears, "that marriage is the most hateful and
terrible thing in the world."
" Well, that is rather an odd thing to hear
the woman you love best in the world say. "
" I mean the ceremony that binds you so
that you can never get away, no matter how
much you hate each other, nor how miserable
you are together. If you love each other and
promise to be faithful all your lives " she
stood up in her excitement and looked at him
" promise with your whole heart and soul,
oughtn't that to bind you ? And yet it
doesn't. People talk of making their vows
before God doesn't God hear you when you
are alone ? "
"Katherine," he said, staring at her with
astonishment, " I don't understand this out-
burst. What on earth has make you think
so much about the marriage ceremony ? "
" Because I hate it," she said. " Because
it is an excuse to bind two people together
who want to be separate, and it fetters them
258 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
when they want to be free. Jim," she went
on in a whisper while a flush dyed her face,
"is not this morning should not the memory
of it be enough to satisfy us ? We can never
get away from it or forget it as long as we live.
Isn't it much more than the bond between two
people who have stood up in church together
and said things they did not mean ? Don't you
think God heard us just as much saying the
things we did mean as he would have heard
two people saying the things they did not
mean? And which do you think would be
marriage in his eyes ? "
u I do not understand you," he answered.
"You are talking nonsense, and not very
pleasant nonsense, my child. The marriage
ceremony may be only the public record of
the vows that people have made each other
in private ; but it was made by the strong for
the protection of the weak, and the strong
must protect it. I have no sympathy with
fads about marriage nor with any crusade
against those things that experience has
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 259
taught men to*be best for the majority. Come,
let us go." He turned towards the farm, and
with burning cheeks she followed him.
The bottle was filled with cream for the
afternoon tea. They refused the bowls of
cream the milkmaid offered them, and turned
on their way homeward in silence.
"It is the oddest thing in the world," he
thought, "that she should go off her head
about the marriage ceremony. Some women
are rather too eager for it. Perhaps the Ogre
wasn't happy in his domestic relations."
Somehow her talk had repelled him. He
liked a woman who reverenced forms and
ceremonies ; he even liked her to be a little
superstitious. "What put all that stuff in
your head about marriage?" he asked ; "you
couldn't have spoken more vehemently if you
had had a drunken husband who beat you
every Saturday night."
"Ah," she said eagerly, "now you have
touched it. Suppose a woman has a drunken
husband who beats her on Saturday nights, a
260 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
man she doesn't love and has never loved, but
has married for some other reason ; or if a
man has a bad and wicked woman for a wife,
not a woman he has once loved, and so for the
sake of that remembrance is willing to bear
with, are they to stay together and be miser-
able all their lives ? "
. u Yes, I think so," he answered slowly;
"if they had not cared for each other they
should not have married
u Oh, yes, yes ; I agree in that."
u But having done so, no matter for what
reason, I think they are bound to remain to-
gether if it is in any way possible, for the
more terrible, the more sacred, and the more
binding you can make marriage, so gradually
will you increase the respect for it. I neither
believe in easy marriage nor in easy divorce
myself. Just as the soldier is sacrificed for
the battle, so must the everyday individual
be sacrificed for the sake of the institution
that has been found to work best and to be
best for the majority. Katherine," he said
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 261
suddenly, "I hope you haven't been talk-
ing with any of the unpleasant women
who tell you that men are wicked and that
women are men's superiors, and all the rest of
"No," answered Katherine, wonderstruck,
"I don't even know what you mean. I think
men and women too, as a rule, are very dear
and good. All that I have known or seen,
with one exception" and her lips turned
white, but still he was unsuspicious, "have
been. Men and women are just as good as
each other, it seems to me, though, of course,
the men are stronger and wiser than the
women at least," she said, looking up with
the quick smile he loved, "it's nicer when
they are ; it makes them able to take care of
us : I can't think of anything better in the
world than being taken care of by anyone
the man," she added shyly, "you love best in
"And you don't know ten thousand people
who have all married miserably ? " he asked
262 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
joyously, for it seemed as if things were com-
ing round to the point he wished.
" No," she said, with a little sorry laugh,
"I knew of one miserable marriage, but the
others," and she thought of the Oswells and
of George and Alice Alford, "have been per-
fectly happy. In England I used to walk
about alone and look at the people two and
two, always a man and a woman, and think
how glad they seemed to be together."
"As we will be, my sweet, when we are
married," he said, and made a sudden snatch
as if to take her in his arms and kiss her.
"Oh, no," she cried, "never as long as
we live ! " and in her fright she dropped the
bottle of cream out of her. basket. It fell at
their feet and was broken. They looked at it
in silence for a moment, and swift as lightning
her thoughts went back to the day when she
had dropped the bowl of flowers. It had al-
ways seemed to her, in looking back, that
upon that day her childhood ended ; it flashed
upon her that perhaps on this day too there
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 263
ended something in her life something that
would never come again.
He looked up and met her eyes. "Never
mind the cream," he said, almost indignantly,
" that does not matter, but I do not under-
stand you, Katherine. Do you mean to say
that it can never be ? "
"No, never," she answered. "But cannot
we be friends ? " she pleaded.
"No, we cannot," he answered decisively.
"That means at worst, what I do not even
choose to mention to you
"But, at best?"
" Something that may be satisfactory for
one, but never is for two. I shall go away to-
morrow or the next day," he said curtly, as
they entered the hotel, but she made no an-
swer, only looked round at him as they went
"I am going to lie down," she said, "and
shall not come in to dinner to-night, but I will
see you both afterwards in the sitting-room ;
perhaps there will be a fire," she added, with a
264 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
little shiver, as she disappeared from Ms sight.
Then she went into her room once more, and
sat down feeling that she had only made him
love her less, and widened the distance between
them. " It is no good," she thought bitterly ;
" my life is my own; I have to suffer all its
pain, and yet I cannot fashion it as I like. I
might as well try to shape water with my
hands. A little life like mine, too. The secret