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This etext was prepared from the 1923 Macmillan edition by Les Bowler.



'Ah, my heart! her eyes and she
Have taught thee new astrology.
Howe'er Love's native hours were set,
Whatever starry synod met,
'Tis in the mercy of her eye,
If poor Love shall live or die.'

CRASHAW: _Love's Horoscope_.




_First published by Macmillan and Co._, _Crown_ 8_vo,_ 1902

_Reprinted_ 1907, 1911, 1916, 1923

_Pocket Edition_ 1906. _Reprinted_ 1909, 1912, 1915, 1918 1919, 1920,
1922, 1923

_Wessex Edition_ (_8vo_) 1912

_Reprinted_ 1920



This slightly-built romance was the outcome of a wish to set the
emotional history of two infinitesimal lives against the stupendous
background of the stellar universe, and to impart to readers the
sentiment that of these contrasting magnitudes the smaller might be the
greater to them as men.

But, on the publication of the book people seemed to be less struck with
these high aims of the author than with their own opinion, first, that
the novel was an 'improper' one in its morals, and, secondly, that it was
intended to be a satire on the Established Church of this country. I was
made to suffer in consequence from several eminent pens.

That, however, was thirteen years ago, and, in respect of the first
opinion, I venture to think that those who care to read the story now
will be quite astonished at the scrupulous propriety observed therein on
the relations of the sexes; for though there may be frivolous, and even
grotesque touches on occasion, there is hardly a single caress in the
book outside legal matrimony, or what was intended so to be.

As for the second opinion, it is sufficient to draw attention, as I did
at the time, to the fact that the Bishop is every inch a gentleman, and
that the parish priest who figures in the narrative is one of its most
estimable characters.

However, the pages must speak for themselves. Some few readers, I
trust - to take a serious view - will be reminded by this imperfect story,
in a manner not unprofitable to the growth of the social sympathies, of
the pathos, misery, long-suffering, and divine tenderness which in real
life frequently accompany the passion of such a woman as Viviette for a
lover several years her junior.

The scene of the action was suggested by two real spots in the part of
the country specified, each of which has a column standing upon it.
Certain surrounding peculiarities have been imported into the narrative
from both sites.

T. H.

_July_ 1895.



On an early winter afternoon, clear but not cold, when the vegetable
world was a weird multitude of skeletons through whose ribs the sun shone
freely, a gleaming landau came to a pause on the crest of a hill in
Wessex. The spot was where the old Melchester Road, which the carriage
had hitherto followed, was joined by a drive that led round into a park
at no great distance off.

The footman alighted, and went to the occupant of the carriage, a lady
about eight- or nine-and-twenty. She was looking through the opening
afforded by a field-gate at the undulating stretch of country beyond. In
pursuance of some remark from her the servant looked in the same

The central feature of the middle distance, as they beheld it, was a
circular isolated hill, of no great elevation, which placed itself in
strong chromatic contrast with a wide acreage of surrounding arable by
being covered with fir-trees. The trees were all of one size and age, so
that their tips assumed the precise curve of the hill they grew upon.
This pine-clad protuberance was yet further marked out from the general
landscape by having on its summit a tower in the form of a classical
column, which, though partly immersed in the plantation, rose above the
tree-tops to a considerable height. Upon this object the eyes of lady
and servant were bent.

'Then there is no road leading near it?' she asked.

'Nothing nearer than where we are now, my lady.'

'Then drive home,' she said after a moment. And the carriage rolled on
its way.

A few days later, the same lady, in the same carriage, passed that spot
again. Her eyes, as before, turned to the distant tower.

'Nobbs,' she said to the coachman, 'could you find your way home through
that field, so as to get near the outskirts of the plantation where the
column is?'

The coachman regarded the field. 'Well, my lady,' he observed, 'in dry
weather we might drive in there by inching and pinching, and so get
across by Five-and-Twenty Acres, all being well. But the ground is so
heavy after these rains that perhaps it would hardly be safe to try it

'Perhaps not,' she assented indifferently. 'Remember it, will you, at a
drier time?'

And again the carriage sped along the road, the lady's eyes resting on
the segmental hill, the blue trees that muffled it, and the column that
formed its apex, till they were out of sight.

A long time elapsed before that lady drove over the hill again. It was
February; the soil was now unquestionably dry, the weather and scene
being in other respects much as they had been before. The familiar shape
of the column seemed to remind her that at last an opportunity for a
close inspection had arrived. Giving her directions she saw the gate
opened, and after a little manoeuvring the carriage swayed slowly into
the uneven field.

Although the pillar stood upon the hereditary estate of her husband the
lady had never visited it, owing to its insulation by this well-nigh
impracticable ground. The drive to the base of the hill was tedious and
jerky, and on reaching it she alighted, directing that the carriage
should be driven back empty over the clods, to wait for her on the
nearest edge of the field. She then ascended beneath the trees on foot.

The column now showed itself as a much more important erection than it
had appeared from the road, or the park, or the windows of Welland House,
her residence hard by, whence she had surveyed it hundreds of times
without ever feeling a sufficient interest in its details to investigate
them. The column had been erected in the last century, as a substantial
memorial of her husband's great-grandfather, a respectable officer who
had fallen in the American war, and the reason of her lack of interest
was partly owing to her relations with this husband, of which more anon.
It was little beyond the sheer desire for something to do - the chronic
desire of her curiously lonely life - that had brought her here now. She
was in a mood to welcome anything that would in some measure disperse an
almost killing _ennui_. She would have welcomed even a misfortune. She
had heard that from the summit of the pillar four counties could be seen.
Whatever pleasurable effect was to be derived from looking into four
counties she resolved to enjoy to-day.

The fir-shrouded hill-top was (according to some antiquaries) an old
Roman camp, - if it were not (as others insisted) an old British castle,
or (as the rest swore) an old Saxon field of Witenagemote, - with remains
of an outer and an inner vallum, a winding path leading up between their
overlapping ends by an easy ascent. The spikelets from the trees formed
a soft carpet over the route, and occasionally a brake of brambles barred
the interspaces of the trunks. Soon she stood immediately at the foot of
the column.

It had been built in the Tuscan order of classic architecture, and was
really a tower, being hollow with steps inside. The gloom and solitude
which prevailed round the base were remarkable. The sob of the
environing trees was here expressively manifest; and moved by the light
breeze their thin straight stems rocked in seconds, like inverted
pendulums; while some boughs and twigs rubbed the pillar's sides, or
occasionally clicked in catching each other. Below the level of their
summits the masonry was lichen-stained and mildewed, for the sun never
pierced that moaning cloud of blue-black vegetation. Pads of moss grew
in the joints of the stone-work, and here and there shade-loving insects
had engraved on the mortar patterns of no human style or meaning; but
curious and suggestive. Above the trees the case was different: the
pillar rose into the sky a bright and cheerful thing, unimpeded, clean,
and flushed with the sunlight.

The spot was seldom visited by a pedestrian, except perhaps in the
shooting season. The rarity of human intrusion was evidenced by the
mazes of rabbit-runs, the feathers of shy birds, the exuviæ of reptiles;
as also by the well-worn paths of squirrels down the sides of trunks, and
thence horizontally away. The fact of the plantation being an island in
the midst of an arable plain sufficiently accounted for this lack of
visitors. Few unaccustomed to such places can be aware of the insulating
effect of ploughed ground, when no necessity compels people to traverse
it. This rotund hill of trees and brambles, standing in the centre of a
ploughed field of some ninety or a hundred acres, was probably visited
less frequently than a rock would have been visited in a lake of equal

She walked round the column to the other side, where she found the door
through which the interior was reached. The paint, if it had ever had
any, was all washed from the wood, and down the decaying surface of the
boards liquid rust from the nails and hinges had run in red stains. Over
the door was a stone tablet, bearing, apparently, letters or words; but
the inscription, whatever it was, had been smoothed over with a plaster
of lichen.

Here stood this aspiring piece of masonry, erected as the most
conspicuous and ineffaceable reminder of a man that could be thought of;
and yet the whole aspect of the memorial betokened forgetfulness.
Probably not a dozen people within the district knew the name of the
person commemorated, while perhaps not a soul remembered whether the
column were hollow or solid, whether with or without a tablet explaining
its date and purpose. She herself had lived within a mile of it for the
last five years, and had never come near it till now.

She hesitated to ascend alone, but finding that the door was not fastened
she pushed it open with her foot, and entered. A scrap of writing-paper
lay within, and arrested her attention by its freshness. Some human
being, then, knew the spot, despite her surmises. But as the paper had
nothing on it no clue was afforded; yet feeling herself the proprietor of
the column and of all around it her self-assertiveness was sufficient to
lead her on. The staircase was lighted by slits in the wall, and there
was no difficulty in reaching the top, the steps being quite unworn. The
trap-door leading on to the roof was open, and on looking through it an
interesting spectacle met her eye.

A youth was sitting on a stool in the centre of the lead flat which
formed the summit of the column, his eye being applied to the end of a
large telescope that stood before him on a tripod. This sort of presence
was unexpected, and the lady started back into the shade of the opening.
The only effect produced upon him by her footfall was an impatient wave
of the hand, which he did without removing his eye from the instrument,
as if to forbid her to interrupt him.

Pausing where she stood the lady examined the aspect of the individual
who thus made himself so completely at home on a building which she
deemed her unquestioned property. He was a youth who might properly have
been characterized by a word the judicious chronicler would not readily
use in such a connexion, preferring to reserve it for raising images of
the opposite sex. Whether because no deep felicity is likely to arise
from the condition, or from any other reason, to say in these days that a
youth is beautiful is not to award him that amount of credit which the
expression would have carried with it if he had lived in the times of the
Classical Dictionary. So much, indeed, is the reverse the case that the
assertion creates an awkwardness in saying anything more about him. The
beautiful youth usually verges so perilously on the incipient coxcomb,
who is about to become the Lothario or Juan among the neighbouring
maidens, that, for the due understanding of our present young man, his
sublime innocence of any thought concerning his own material aspect, or
that of others, is most fervently asserted, and must be as fervently

Such as he was, there the lad sat. The sun shone full in his face, and
on his head he wore a black velvet skull-cap, leaving to view below it a
curly margin of very light shining hair, which accorded well with the
flush upon his cheek.

He had such a complexion as that with which Raffaelle enriches the
countenance of the youthful son of Zacharias, - a complexion which, though
clear, is far enough removed from virgin delicacy, and suggests plenty of
sun and wind as its accompaniment. His features were sufficiently
straight in the contours to correct the beholder's first impression that
the head was the head of a girl. Beside him stood a little oak table,
and in front was the telescope.

His visitor had ample time to make these observations; and she may have
done so all the more keenly through being herself of a totally opposite
type. Her hair was black as midnight, her eyes had no less deep a shade,
and her complexion showed the richness demanded as a support to these
decided features. As she continued to look at the pretty fellow before
her, apparently so far abstracted into some speculative world as scarcely
to know a real one, a warmer wave of her warm temperament glowed visibly
through her, and a qualified observer might from this have hazarded a
guess that there was Romance blood in her veins.

But even the interest attaching to the youth could not arrest her
attention for ever, and as he made no further signs of moving his eye
from the instrument she broke the silence with -

'What do you see? - something happening somewhere?'

'Yes, quite a catastrophe!' he automatically murmured, without moving


'A cyclone in the sun.'

The lady paused, as if to consider the weight of that event in the scale
of terrene life.

'Will it make any difference to us here?' she asked.

The young man by this time seemed to be awakened to the consciousness
that somebody unusual was talking to him; he turned, and started.

'I beg your pardon,' he said. 'I thought it was my relative come to look
after me! She often comes about this time.'

He continued to look at her and forget the sun, just such a reciprocity
of influence as might have been expected between a dark lady and a flaxen-
haired youth making itself apparent in the faces of each.

'Don't let me interrupt your observations,' said she.

'Ah, no,' said he, again applying his eye; whereupon his face lost the
animation which her presence had lent it, and became immutable as that of
a bust, though superadding to the serenity of repose the sensitiveness of
life. The expression that settled on him was one of awe. Not unaptly
might it have been said that he was worshipping the sun. Among the
various intensities of that worship which have prevailed since the first
intelligent being saw the luminary decline westward, as the young man now
beheld it doing, his was not the weakest. He was engaged in what may be
called a very chastened or schooled form of that first and most natural
of adorations.

'But would you like to see it?' he recommenced. 'It is an event that is
witnessed only about once in two or three years, though it may occur
often enough.'

She assented, and looked through the shaded eyepiece, and saw a whirling
mass, in the centre of which the blazing globe seemed to be laid bare to
its core. It was a peep into a maelstrom of fire, taking place where
nobody had ever been or ever would be.

'It is the strangest thing I ever beheld,' she said. Then he looked
again; till wondering who her companion could be she asked, 'Are you
often here?'

'Every night when it is not cloudy, and often in the day.'

'Ah, night, of course. The heavens must be beautiful from this point.'

'They are rather more than that.'

'Indeed! Have you entirely taken possession of this column?'


'But it is my column,' she said, with smiling asperity.

'Then are you Lady Constantine, wife of the absent Sir Blount

'I am Lady Constantine.'

'Ah, then I agree that it is your ladyship's. But will you allow me to
rent it of you for a time, Lady Constantine?'

'You have taken it, whether I allow it or not. However, in the interests
of science it is advisable that you continue your tenancy. Nobody knows
you are here, I suppose?'

'Hardly anybody.'

He then took her down a few steps into the interior, and showed her some
ingenious contrivances for stowing articles away.

'Nobody ever comes near the column, - or, as it's called here, Rings-Hill
Speer,' he continued; 'and when I first came up it nobody had been here
for thirty or forty years. The staircase was choked with daws' nests and
feathers, but I cleared them out.'

'I understood the column was always kept locked?'

'Yes, it has been so. When it was built, in 1782, the key was given to
my great-grandfather, to keep by him in case visitors should happen to
want it. He lived just down there where I live now.'

He denoted by a nod a little dell lying immediately beyond the ploughed
land which environed them.

'He kept it in his bureau, and as the bureau descended to my grandfather,
my mother, and myself, the key descended with it. After the first thirty
or forty years, nobody ever asked for it. One day I saw it, lying rusty
in its niche, and, finding that it belonged to this column, I took it and
came up. I stayed here till it was dark, and the stars came out, and
that night I resolved to be an astronomer. I came back here from school
several months ago, and I mean to be an astronomer still.'

He lowered his voice, and added:

'I aim at nothing less than the dignity and office of Astronomer Royal,
if I live. Perhaps I shall not live.'

'I don't see why you should suppose that,' said she. 'How long are you
going to make this your observatory?'

'About a year longer - till I have obtained a practical familiarity with
the heavens. Ah, if I only had a good equatorial!'

'What is that?'

'A proper instrument for my pursuit. But time is short, and science is
infinite, - how infinite only those who study astronomy fully realize, - and
perhaps I shall be worn out before I make my mark.'

She seemed to be greatly struck by the odd mixture in him of scientific
earnestness and melancholy mistrust of all things human. Perhaps it was
owing to the nature of his studies.

'You are often on this tower alone at night?' she said.

'Yes; at this time of the year particularly, and while there is no moon.
I observe from seven or eight till about two in the morning, with a view
to my great work on variable stars. But with such a telescope as
this - well, I must put up with it!'

'Can you see Saturn's ring and Jupiter's moons?'

He said drily that he could manage to do that, not without some contempt
for the state of her knowledge.

'I have never seen any planet or star through a telescope.'

'If you will come the first clear night, Lady Constantine, I will show
you any number. I mean, at your express wish; not otherwise.'

'I should like to come, and possibly may at some time. These stars that
vary so much - sometimes evening stars, sometimes morning stars, sometimes
in the east, and sometimes in the west - have always interested me.'

'Ah - now there is a reason for your not coming. Your ignorance of the
realities of astronomy is so satisfactory that I will not disturb it
except at your serious request.'

'But I wish to be enlightened.'

'Let me caution you against it.'

'Is enlightenment on the subject, then, so terrible?'

'Yes, indeed.'

She laughingly declared that nothing could have so piqued her curiosity
as his statement, and turned to descend. He helped her down the stairs
and through the briers. He would have gone further and crossed the open
corn-land with her, but she preferred to go alone. He then retraced his
way to the top of the column, but, instead of looking longer at the sun,
watched her diminishing towards the distant fence, behind which waited
the carriage. When in the midst of the field, a dark spot on an area of
brown, there crossed her path a moving figure, whom it was as difficult
to distinguish from the earth he trod as the caterpillar from its leaf,
by reason of the excellent match between his clothes and the clods. He
was one of a dying-out generation who retained the principle, nearly
unlearnt now, that a man's habiliments should be in harmony with his
environment. Lady Constantine and this figure halted beside each other
for some minutes; then they went on their several ways.

The brown person was a labouring man known to the world of Welland as
Haymoss (the encrusted form of the word Amos, to adopt the phrase of
philologists). The reason of the halt had been some inquiries addressed
to him by Lady Constantine.

'Who is that - Amos Fry, I think?' she had asked.

'Yes my lady,' said Haymoss; 'a homely barley driller, born under the
eaves of your ladyship's outbuildings, in a manner of speaking, - though
your ladyship was neither born nor 'tempted at that time.'

'Who lives in the old house behind the plantation?'

'Old Gammer Martin, my lady, and her grandson.'

'He has neither father nor mother, then?'

'Not a single one, my lady.'

'Where was he educated?'

'At Warborne, - a place where they draw up young gam'sters' brains like
rhubarb under a ninepenny pan, my lady, excusing my common way. They hit
so much larning into en that 'a could talk like the day of Pentecost;
which is a wonderful thing for a simple boy, and his mother only the
plainest ciphering woman in the world. Warborne Grammar School - that's
where 'twas 'a went to. His father, the reverent Pa'son St. Cleeve, made
a terrible bruckle hit in 's marrying, in the sight of the high. He were
the curate here, my lady, for a length o' time.'

'Oh, curate,' said Lady Constantine. 'It was before I knew the village.'

'Ay, long and merry ago! And he married Farmer Martin's daughter - Giles
Martin, a limberish man, who used to go rather bad upon his lags, if you
can mind. I knowed the man well enough; who should know en better! The
maid was a poor windling thing, and, though a playward piece o' flesh
when he married her, 'a socked and sighed, and went out like a snoff!
Yes, my lady. Well, when Pa'son St. Cleeve married this homespun woman
the toppermost folk wouldn't speak to his wife. Then he dropped a cuss
or two, and said he'd no longer get his living by curing their twopenny
souls o' such d - - nonsense as that (excusing my common way), and he took
to farming straightway, and then 'a dropped down dead in a nor'-west
thunderstorm; it being said - hee-hee! - that Master God was in tantrums
wi'en for leaving his service, - hee-hee! I give the story as I heard it,
my lady, but be dazed if I believe in such trumpery about folks in the
sky, nor anything else that's said on 'em, good or bad. Well, Swithin,
the boy, was sent to the grammar school, as I say for; but what with
having two stations of life in his blood he's good for nothing, my lady.
He mopes about - sometimes here, and sometimes there; nobody troubles
about en.'

Lady Constantine thanked her informant, and proceeded onward. To her, as
a woman, the most curious feature in the afternoon's incident was that
this lad, of striking beauty, scientific attainments, and cultivated
bearing, should be linked, on the maternal side, with a local
agricultural family through his father's matrimonial eccentricity. A
more attractive feature in the case was that the same youth, so capable
of being ruined by flattery, blandishment, pleasure, even gross
prosperity, should be at present living on in a primitive Eden of
unconsciousness, with aims towards whose accomplishment a Caliban shape
would have been as effective as his own.


Swithin St. Cleeve lingered on at his post, until the more sanguine birds
of the plantation, already recovering from their midwinter anxieties,
piped a short evening hymn to the vanishing sun.

The landscape was gently concave; with the exception of tower and hill

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