married, just as men grow obstinate and nar-
row if they are alone; each sex needs the
other to leaven it. It is better to be with a
disagreeable man than to grow disagreeable
yourself ! "
"Oh, don't let us talk of that; you don't
know how impossible it all is. I wish I could
do something more for you before I go, I do
so little ! " But Miss Bennett had closed her
eyes, and did not hear. Katherine, seeing
that she was comfortable, left the room softly
and took her way back to her own lodging.
She was living at Laigueglia, and was the
only Englishwoman in the village, which Miss
Bennett had described well enough a little,
quiet street, a white marble church cracked by
earthquake, a railway station at which a train
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 291
stopped once or twice a day, and a few de-
serted-looking houses with gardens full of
orange-trees ; that was all. She had per-
suaded a woman who kept a little shop to let
her have a bed-room and to provide her with
the morning coffee and the midday meal ; the
rest she managed, with the help of a spirit-
lamp and some tea and biscuits, to arrange for
And here, alone from every one who even
spoke her tongue, she tried to face the prob-
lem of life and the future. She had plenty of
money at the present rate to last her a year
or two. The place was beautiful enough, the
Mediterranean and the mountains and the
wonderful vegetation were intoxicating ; but
they were not enough to satisfy her. "I
want more," she cried to herself; "I can't go
on for ever living like this, or measure my
thoughts and longings by the rule of right and
wrong. I want to live, not merely to eat and
drink and take up room in the world and do
nothing nothing at all. I am of no use at
292 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
all now unless it is to poor Miss Bennett, and
she will be gone soon ; if I were dead no one
would care, hardly anyone would even know.
Yes, Jim would be sorry, and perhaps the
Mummy." She sat down on the beach half-
way between the hotel, low down on the
water's edge, of which Miss Bennett had told
her, and Laigueglia. The hotel was a long,
rambling building, picturesque enough, with a
great orange garden to it, and immediately be-
hind the mountains rose up high and suddenly
towards the blue sky. Hardly any one stayed
at the hotel, and the few who did were Ital-
ians. A man and a woman were sitting in the
garden when Katherine passed, but she had
only seen them in the distance. They came
out from among the orange-trees now and
walked round to the front of the hotel, and
stopped as if they were watching the sunset.
Something made Katherine think that they
were English, but she could not see them well,
and since the man was certainly not Mr.
Belcher, whom she dreaded, or Jim Alford,
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 293
for whom she longed, she went on with her
own thoughts, idly stirring the sand with her
fingers. She felt that somehow she must see
Jim again ; she loved him more and more
every day of her life. All space was empty ;
every sound seemed to echo in a desert ; the
hours dragged by and made themselves felt
to the uttermost second of every minute.
Beautiful ; oh, yes ! the place might be beau-
tiful, but it was an empty paradise, and she
was miserable. All sorts of desperate things
she might have done presented themselves to
her. "I wish I had never told," she cried,
while the b'ue water surged up to her feet as
if to listen. "I might have married him and
gone away to India and been happy all my
my life and never discovered. It wasn't as if
he had been going to live in England. Why
didn't I think of it and dare it? I know I
could have made him happy, and he would
never, never have known. It would have
done no one any harm ; how can a deed that
only makes people happy and does no one
294 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
any harm be wrong? I can't understand it.
But I know this, that I would live a year
in prison darkness or bitterest pain for just
one hour more with him, and I shall never see
him again as long as I live. I used to think
that the mere fact of loving him and thinking
of him would be enough ; but it isn't. I want
to see him, and hear him, and to walk beside
him. Oh, how wicked I am ! for I want him
to kiss me again, and it is all over for ever
and ever, and I have to live to the end of my
life as best I can. If we had only been like
those two people," she thought, as she watched
the strangers saunter back to the orange- trees,
"they look like Adam and Eve going into the
Garden of Eden. It has always been a man
and woman a man and a woman since the
world began. But I have to wander on and be
alone always, that is my portion, and some
day I shall be old and discontented, waiting
for death like Miss Bennett, and have had
nothing in life to satisfy me, and be hungry
and longing still. Jim will marry somebody
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 295
else in time oh, to think of him married to
someone else someone who has always been
happy and will be happier still when he loves
her, and she goes to spend her whole life with
him makes me feel as if I want to die before
it comes to pass." She stood up and looked at
the sea it seemed full of infinite wisdom and
understanding. "How foolish I must seem to
you ! " she cried, holding oat her arms towards
it. " But I am so miserable ! I want to be-
long to Jim, to be his wife, to spend all my
days with him, and to be buried in the same
grave with him at last : the chance was mine,
but those awful words that I said, just for lack
of courage to run away from Uncle Robert,
have made it impossible for ever. It will never
be now never never. I might as well try to
walk across you to the horizon in the dis-
tance." She turned away with a long sigh,
and walked on towards Laigueglia, thinking of
the Mummy's letter ; for she had written to
Mrs. Alford soon after she had arrived at Lai-
gueglia. There had been a fortnight's long
296 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
waiting before the answer came, and when it
did, though it was kind enough, it was firm in
its opinion that she ought to go back to her
husband, or to write to her uncle in Australia,
asking him to arrange a separation that was
legal. " Or, if you like" the letter went on,
"and have not courage to do it before, as I
think you ought, come to me at the end of
January, when Jim has gone. P shall be at
Chilworth, and if you like to tell your hus-
band to meet you under my roof, I will do my
best to help you to some arrangement with
him." How merciless it seemed: she had no
heart to answer it. Other reference to Jim, ex-
cept that one about his going, there had been
none in it, but the letter was dated from Milan,
and Katherine divined that they were on their
way back to England. More than a month
had passed since it came, but she could not
think of it calmly : it made her determine that
when Miss Bennett was gone she would jour-
ney on to some other place that had no mem-
ory of the morning that brought it.
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 297
She could not go indoors yet, it was too
early. An idea struck her. She would go.
back to Alassio, through the little town, out
at the other end and on to Santa Croce, and
see the moon rise through a ruined doorway-
all that was left of some old church or monas-
tery hidden among the woods high up above
Albenga. She looked in at the garden as she
passed the hotel. The strangers rose from a
seat among the orange-trees and suddenly
faced her. With a cry of fear she stood still,
for one of them in astonishment darted to-
wards her. It was Mrs. Os well.
" MES. BELCHER ! " Mrs. Oswell darted
from her husband's side through the little
gateway and stopped in astonishment. Kath-
erine stood spell-bound and helpless, the tears
gathering in her eyes and her hands twisting
nervously together as she vainly tried to speak.
It was all over, she was discovered, and going
to be taken back, a prisoner, to a judge who
would be merciless. Then Mrs. Oswell, just as
if she had divined her thoughts, put her arms
round the girl's neck and kissed her. " Don't
be afraid," she said. "I have understood all
about it, and we are not going to telegraph to
Mr. Belcher ; so don't look at us as if we were
"It is all right, Mrs. Belcher," Mr. Oswell
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 299
said reassuringly ; u Bee and I were very sorry
for you, and felt that things must have been
pretty bad or you wouldn't have done it."
"Where is he?" Katherine asked in a
" In England, I suppose," Mrs. Oswell
answered in a tone of distinct satisfaction.
" Let that comfort you. But how did you get
here? Everyone thought you were at the
bottom of the sea," she added cheerfully ;
" your trunk turned up from the wreck of an
American liner, and its owner was supposed to
u lts owner?" Katherine said, dazed, 'and
my trunk ? Oh, I remember, I gave it to a
chambermaid at Southampton ! "
"Well, Mr. Belcher wears a hat-band for
you, and if you leave him alone I shouldn't be
surprised if some fine day he marries again."
"Oh! let him," Katherine cried, with a
great throb of relief, "and don't tell him that
you have found me. I was never really mar-
ried to him I mean that it was never like
300 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
marriage," she added, in answer to the surprise
on Mr. Oswald's face, "and we were miserable
together. Let him live his life as he will, and
let me go my own way."
" Are you alone, dear? " Mrs. Os well asked
in a low voice.
" Alone? " Katherine repeated, not even un-
derstanding the question. " Why, yes. I met
an old friend on board ship and made friends
with her people," the colour came to her face
swiftly, " but they are not here. I am by my-
self at Laigueglia, and the only person I know
is a poor woman dying at Alassio."
Mrs. Oswell put her arm through Kath-
erine's. "Fred," she said to her husband,
" let us take her into the hotel and make her
dine with us ; the bell will ring directly she
wants cheering up."
Almost before she was aware of it, they had
carried their point, and Katherine found her-
self sitting with them in the salle d manger of
the hotel. "And now, tell us what you have
been doing with yourself all this time." Mrs.
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 301
Oswell's manner had not improved, though her
face was as kindly as ever. " You look as if
you had been standing still on one leg like the
crane you once told me about. "
" I have been journeying on in the world as
I always longed to do," she said with a little
rueful smile. "It is very beautiful, and the
people in it have taught me to be very thank-
ful for life ; but I have known that an end
must come. Oh, do tell me," she went on
eagerly, and yet even to mention the name
frightened her, " if you have seen him. And
what he said and whether he tried to find
" We will tell you everything," Mrs. Oswell
answered, "as soon as you have eaten some
dinner. What a good thing this place is
empty, so that we can talk in peace ! Fred, do
hurry the waiter. Oh, you have ordered some
champagne that was clever of you, it will do
her good, even if it is bad. Lst me see the
label I declare we are lucky ! No, my dear
Katherine, I have not seen Mr. Belcher, but
302 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
Fred has, two or three times. I have seen
" My aunt ! I haven't one."
"Yes, you have," Mrs. Oswell answered
triumphantly. u Your uncle went to Australia
to look after his son's wife and two boys ; and
it seems that a Frenchwoman who lived in the
same house in Gower Street insisted on going
"The artfulness of women is amazing," said
" Only when they are French, Fred dear.
Well, when they got to Melbourne it turned
out that the boys were alive and the mother
was dead. So your uncle married the French-
woman, and they all came back together, and
are living happy ever after."
"I can't imagine Uncle Robert married,"
Katherine said in amazement. "Mr. Belcher
won't get his money."
" Serve him right."
"But how did you see her? You didn't
know Uncle Robert."
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 303
"No, but Fred had met him at your house,
and I was miserable about you, so I boldly
called on her and told her freely my opinion
of Mr. Belcher. She is a nice woman, and had
admired you when you went to see your uncle.
I am quite sure that she will be a friend to
"How did you know that I had run
"I went to see you, and Gibson said you
had gone to Bridgewater, and gave me the ad-
dress, so I wrote to you there, and the letter
was returned to your house. I believe that
first set up your husband's suspicions on
his return. He was in a great rage, and
persisted in believing that a woman at Bridge-
"Oh, poor Susan
"Was hiding you. He felt certain that
you were there, for you had been traced to
Paddington. A month or two later there was
a sensational wreck, and among the things cast
up was the box with your name
304 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
" Susan thought it would look nice, and
had it painted on when I was married."
"So Mr. Belcher concluded that you were
drowned, and," she added with the occasional
want of tact which had always distinguished
her, "I think he has quite done mourning for
you by this time."
" It, sets me free," Katherine said, with a
long sigh of satisfaction ; " he shall never know
that I am alive."
"Well, but I don't think that would be
quite fair," Mr. Oswell said. "Suppose some
day he married again you would have led
him into bigamy. It is rather an unpleasant
fix, I know," he went on, looking at her with
the kind eyes that she remembered at Winder-
mere, " but we have to get out of our awkward
fixes in life with the best grace we can, and we
must all play the game fairly. You and Bee
had better talk it over presently. And in spite
of all things," he added, as he filled up her
glass, "we will drink to your happiness, Mrs.
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 305
" Happiness! I never knew what happi-
ness was till this summer," and the colour
rushed to her face again.
Mrs. Oswell watching her, thought sagely,
' 'Unless I am very much mistaken, my dear,
you have been in sight of the red lamp since
you took to journeying about the world alone.
A woman gravitates towards it as if by instinct
when her home relations go wrong." Then she
asked aloud, "What made you come to this
place, of all others ? "
"It was your talk at Winder-mere," Kath-
erine answered, looking at Mr. Oswell. "I
never dreamt that you would come again :
Mrs. Oswell said she didn't like the little Ital-
"It's very odd," Mrs. Oswell said affection-
ately, "but no matter how much I dislike
them at first, I always come round to thinking
that the things Fred likes and does are the
best in the world. I positively longed to come
abroad again, and made him bring me here,
and now I am convinced that it is the loveliest
306 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
place I ever saw. We are going away in the
morning to Monte Carlo, but we mean to get
home for Christmas who would believe that
it only wants a fortnight to it, in this lovely
weather ? "
" And you won't tell Mr. Belcher that you
have seen me \ " Katherine entreated.
" Did he treat you very badly ? " Mr. Os well
"He made me miserable," she answered
sadly. "The morning I came away, and the
night before, he struck me even to think of
him frightens me." Mr. Oswell was silent a
moment, then he answered slowly ;
" You will have to let him know that you
are alive, my dear young lady ; it may be hard
lines, but if there is a law one has to abide
by it. We will take care of you," he went on
gently, "and see that he doesn't ill-treat you.
Perhaps he would consent to a legal separa-
tion ; then, at least, you would not go about
dreading discovery, only it seems hard that
you should have no future before you but that
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 307
of a woman separated from her husband
which is never a very satisfactory one."
" I did not dream what I was doing when I
married," Katherine said despairingly.
''People never do, my dear," Mrs. Oswell
said; "but still there you are. Fred wants
to smoke, I know he shall go and walk on
the beach while you and I sit in the orange-
garden and have a quiet talk ; and presently
we will take you back to Laigueglia. We
start by the early train, so we shall not see
you to-morrow. I can't think," she went on
as they walked down the pathway, u how I
could be so wicked to Fred as not to enjoy
Italy the last time he brought me."
"Are you as happy together as ever?"
"Were you very much in love when you
married ? "
"We liked each other better than anyone
else, and wanted to be together; but things
didn't always go smoothly the first year. I
308 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
have never owned that to anybody else in the
world," Mrs. Oswell added. "It was difficult
for him, perhaps, to settle down with a woman
always about him, to come home always to
the same face and the same sort of talk, and
to give up some of his bachelor habits though
I am pretty easy-going and of course I am
expensive, so that he has had to work harder,
and his responsibilities are greater because of
"Yes; but he has had you to love him
and to think of him and welcome him home
every day, and to sympathise with him, and
to care for everything that concerned him."
"And he has cared for everything that con-
cerned me," Mrs. Oswell answered. "The ad-
vantages of his position, my dear, I leave for
his contemplation ; it is my business to con-
sider the disadvantages, and to try and lighten
them. We have each put up with the other's
shortcomings and been thoroughly happy to-
gether. I certainly love him more than any-
one else in the world more and more as time
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 399
goes on as he does me. But I suspect that
if we had not displayed some tact and forbear-
ance at times, especially in the beginning, we
could have drifted apart."
"Mrs. Oswell," asked Katherine slowly,
"are you saying this for me? Do you think
I ought to go back to Mr. Belcher 3 "
"I think you ought to let him know that
you are alive ; and, if you are to fight, why,
"He made me marry him, and he delighted
in making me miserable."
"Made or not made, you did marry him.
I always feel so sorry for the disagreeable
people myself ; they have generally had some
knocks in life of which we know nothing ; but
I remember saying this to you at Windermere.
If things had always gone well and smoothly
with Mr. Belcher, he would probably have
been kinder and more gentle with you. We
pass on all things to each other."
"That is what I once thought about sin,"
310 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
"I think," Mrs. Oswell went on, not heed-
ing her, u that we should always try, as a
modern thinker said he tried, <to accept the
facts as they are, however bitter or severe, to
be a lover and a student but never a law-
"It is so hard," Katherine whispered;
u and Mr. Belcher need never even see me
"I know it is hard," Mrs. Oswell an-
swered; "but try and consider things from
his point of view. It won't be pleasant for
him to have a discontented wife all his days,
or even to go about with an invisible millstone
round his neck, while you become that most
disagreeable invention of modern times, a lone
woman with a husband, a past, and a griev-
." What do you want me to do ? " she asked
"Write to your uncle and ask him to try
and improve matters ; and, if they can't be
improved, why, of course, you must arrange
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 3H
a separation. Have courage, dear ; we will
stand by you, and I think your uncle's wife
will be a good friend to you."
"Oh, Mrs. Oswell!" Katherine cried pas-
sionately, resting her head down on the back
of the seat, "I cannot do it, I cannot. It isn't
only that I don't care for him I hate him and
shrink from him. He is horrible horrible !
even to think of him makes me shudder.
There cannot be anything in the world so
cruel as to be married to a man you don't
love ; and it isn't only that I don't love him,"
she added desperately, "but that I love some-
body else. You have been very kind to me,
and so I will tell you all. I love somebody
else with all my heart and soul, and think of
him every minute of my life, and long to be
with him, and every day away from him and
all my days must be spent away from him is
an ache and a sorrow. He is not here, and I
shall never see him again."
"Thank God!" Mrs. Oswell said to her-
312 A FLASH OF SUMMER.
" In a little more than a month he will have
started for India, and I shall never, never see
him again," repeated poor Katherine woefully.
u But he loved me he loved me so, and he
wanted to marry me. Oh! Mrs. Oswell, I
should have been the happiest woman in the
u But didn't he know that you were mar-
ried ? " Suddenly Mrs. Oswell looked down at
Katherine's fingers: "Why, where is your
wedding-ring I "
"I threw it into the sea," she answered,
with a satisfaction she could not help. "No,
he didn't know ; he thought I was a girl."
"But does he know now?" Mrs. Oswell
was a little shocked and bewildered, easy-going
though she was by nature.
" Yes, yes ; he knows everything, and prob-
ably despises me and thinks me even worse
than you do, for he and his mother they were
together, and I stayed with them at Generoso
could not understand why I refused him,
though I loved him and made no secret of it,
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 313
till I stood up one night and told them the
truth. But I could not bring myself to tell
them that he had struck me. It seemed un-
generous to tell that of a man they had never
seen, and who was not there to defend himself.
Besides, my pride would not let me confess it,
it was so humiliating, and when I had finished,
almost before they had had time to recover, I
vanished from their sight, and the next morn-
ing I got up very early and left a note for Miss
Bennett she was to be carried down in a chair
from Generoso and did not want me till she
reached Mendrisio. I started on foot at five
in the morning. It was chilly and raining,"
she went on with a shudder, " though after-
wards I saw the sun shining up on the moun-
tains. I shall never forget that long walk
down while I live it was like walking down
from Heaven. Miss Bennett followed earlier
than I expected, and we got away by the morn-
ing train, perhaps before they even found out
that we had started. I wrote to Mrs. Alford
from here, but her answer showed that she was
314: A FLASH OF SUMMER.
angry with me, and Jim didn't send me a
single word. All that is over, Mrs. Oswell,
but I love him with all my heart, and could be
happy with him, though we were beggars in
the street and he beat me every day. That is
the whole difference. How could I go back to
Mr. Belcher, and be a wife to him whom I
never loved at all never did anything but fear
while in my heart I am always with another
man and belong to him ? "
" Well," said Mrs. Oswell, with a long sigh,
" it is a terrible corner, and I don't see what is
to be done."
" Leave me alone," Katherine entreated,
" and tell no one that you have seen me. You
shall hear from me later after I have seen poor
Miss Bennett die, perhaps. Leave me alone
wait wait till I have thought it all out for
myself and write to you. I want to do what is
right, I do indeed, but some things are not to
" There is no merit in doing right when it is
easy ; it is the difficulty that makes it virtue."
A FLASH OF SUMMER. 315
"And even then it is only duty. Oh, Mrs.
Oswell, I have come to the conclusion that
morality is often the sorriest thing in the
world. But I am not a foolish girl any longer.
I am a woman who has suffered and thought,
and loved and striven, and I want to do my
best my very, very best but I must fight it
out alone ; I must be alone to work out my
own salvation or the reverse. Remember," she
added with a sob, " whichever it is it will be
mine, mine to bear, for ever and ever." She
stopped, but her face was on her arm, which
was twisted over the back of the seat. Mrs.
Oswell looked at her puzzled ; these strong
emotions did not often come her way, and she
did not know what to do with them.
" Don't be so unhappy," she said. " Things
may turn out better than we imagine, and, of
course, though it may seem rather hard now,
it is a good thing that the other man is going
to India, for, after all, we women are very
human, my dear. I wish you would talk it
out with Fred there is nothing like a mascu-