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the house. This, like the one in front, was hedged round with lilac
laden with glorious blossom of all shades, from deepest purple through
all the degrees of mauve to white. Every here and there the line was
broken by a May-tree just bursting into bloom that thrust its pink or
white buds through the lilac. A narrow path paved with large, uneven,
moss-covered stone flags led down the centre and on through a little
wicket gate into the kitchen garden beyond, so that altogether there
was quite an extensive walk through the three gardens, all
flower-lined and sweetly fragrant. We passed slowly along the path
down to the extreme end of the kitchen garden where there was a seat
under a broad-leaved fig-tree. By the side of the seat stood an old
pump, handle and spout shaded by a vine that half trained and half of
its own will trailed and gambolled up the old red brick garden wall. A
flycatcher perched on the pump handle and thrilled out its gay
irresponsible song.

"I have just come over the sea and I am so glad to be here, so glad,
so glad," it seemed to be saying, and two swallows skimmed backwards
and forwards low down to the earth, gathering mud from a little pool
by the pump.

We sat down on the bench and looked out from under the fig-tree at the
pure tranquil sky, full of gold light and just tinted with the first
rosy flush of evening.

There was complete silence save for the clear, gay, rippling song of
the bird, and the deep peace of the scene seemed to fall upon us like
an enchanted spell.

Viola dropped her head on my shoulder with a sigh of contentment.

"I am so happy, so content. I feel as glad as that little flycatcher.
It has escaped from the sea and the storms and winds, and I've got
away from London, its tiresome dinners and hot rooms and all the
stupid men who want to marry one."

I laughed and watched her face as it lay against me, and I saw her
eyes half-closed as she gazed dreaming into the sunshine.

Faint pink clouds sailed across the sky at intervals like downy
feathers blown before a breeze; the flycatcher continued its
chattering song to us, some bees hummed with a warm summer-like sound
over the wall.

An hour slipped by and seemed only like one golden moment. We heard a
bell jangle from the direction of the house, and when I looked at my
watch I saw it was time to dress for dinner.

When we retraced our steps the whole garden was bathed in rosy light
and the lilac stood out in it curiously and poured forth a wonderful,
heavy fragrance as we passed.

The voice of spring, that beautiful low whisper with its promise of
summer and cloudless days was in all the air. Had we been married
several years I do not think either Viola or I would have found Mrs.
Jevons's cooking good nor praised the dinner that night; the
attendance also might have been condemned. But as it was we were in
that magic mirage of first days together and everything seemed
perfect.

When it was over we sought the outside again and sat watching the now
paling rose of the sky being replaced by clear, tender green. A
passion and rapture of song, the last evening song of the birds, was
being poured out on the still dewy air all round us. One by one the
songsters grew tired and ceased as a pale star grew visible here and
there in the transparent sky, and complete silence fell on the garden.
Only a bat flitted across it silently now and then, and the white
night-moths came and played by us. I had my arm round her waist and I
drew her close to me and looked down upon her through the dusky
twilight.

"Let us go, too, dearest, it is quite late."

She looked up, the colour waving all over her face, and smiled back at
me, and we went in and upstairs.

When we reached our room, the window was wide open as we had left it
and the room seemed full of soft violet gloom, heavy with fragrance of
the lilac that shewed its pale mauve stars through the shadows.

It was so beautiful, the effect of the deep summer twilight, that I
told her not to light the candles.

"Shew yourself to me in this wonderful mysterious half-light, nothing
can be more beautiful."

I sat down on the foot of the bed watching her, my heart beating,
every pulse within me throbbing with delight.

Viola did not answer. She did not light the candles, but with the
rustle of falling silk and lace began her undressing.

That night I could not sleep. The window stood open, and the room was
filled with the soft mysterious twilight of the summer night with its
thousand wandering perfumes, its tiny sounds of bats and whirring
wings.

The cherry bloom thrust its long, white, scented arms into the room. I
lay looking towards the white square of the window wide-eyed and
thinking.

A strange elation possessed my brain. I felt happy with a clear
consciousness of feeling happy. One can be happy unconsciously or
consciously.

The first state is like the sensation one has when lying in hot water:
one is warm, but one hardly knows it, so accustomed to the embrace of
the water has the body become.

The other state of conscious happiness is like that of first entering
the bath, when the skin is violently keenly alive to the heat of the
water.

Viola lay beside me motionless, wrapped in a soundless sleep like the
sleep of exhaustion. Not the faintest sound of breathing came from her
closed lips.

The room was so light I could distinctly see the pale circle of her
face and all the undulating lines of her fair hair beside me on the
pillow.

I felt the strange delight of ownership borne in upon me as it had
never been yet.

We had not dared to pass a night together at the studio.

We had only had short afternoons and evenings, hours snatched here and
there, over-clouded by fears of hearing a knock at the door, a
footstep outside.

But this deep solitude, these hours of the night when she _slept_
beside me, all powers, all the armour of our intelligence that we wear
in our waking moments, laid aside, seemed to give her to me more
completely than she had ever given herself before.

And gazing upon her in serene unconsciousness, I felt the intense joy
of possession, a sort of madness of satisfaction vibrating through me,
stamping that hour on my memory for ever.

The next morning we came down late and enjoyed everything with that
keen poignant sense of pleasure that novelty alone can give. To us
coming from a stay of months in town the small sitting-room, the open
casement window, the simple breakfast-table, the loud noise of birds'
voices without, the green glow of the garden seemed delightful, almost
wonderful.

So curtains were really white! how strange it seemed. In town they are
always grey or brown, and the air was light and thin with a sweet
scent, and the sky was blue!!!

It was a fine day, the sun poured down riotously through the
snow-white bloom of the cherry-tree, two cuckoos were calling to each
other from opposite sides of the wood, and their note, so soft in the
distance, so powerful when near, resounded through the shining air
till it seemed full of the sound of a great clanging bell, musical and
beautiful.

Viola was delighted; her keen ear enjoyed the unusual sound.

"Oh, Trevor, that repeated note, how glorious it is! It reminds me of
a sustained note in Wagner's _Festpiel_. I do wish they'd go on."

She seated herself by the window listening with rapture in her eyes.
The woman of the house brought in our coffee, but I doubt if we should
have got any breakfast, only the cuckoos wanted theirs and fortunately
flew off to get it.

When the glorious musical bell rang out far on the other side of the
wood, dimmed by distance, Viola came reluctantly to the table.

"How delicious this is! this being in the country _just at first_.
Look at the table with its jonquils! isn't it pretty? Look at the
honey and cream!"

"I think you had better eat some of it," I answered; "or at least pour
out the coffee."

Viola laughed and did so, and we breakfasted joyously, full of the
curious gayety that belongs to novelty alone.

Then we went out, and the outside was equally entrancing. The scent of
the lilac seemed to hang like a canopy in the air under which we
walked. There was a fat thrush on the lawn, young and tailless. The
sight of him and the dappled marks on his white breast gave me a
strange pleasure.

We sat down on the turf finally where the cherry-tree cast a light
shade, a sort of white shadow in the sunlight, from its blossoms.
Viola thrust her hands down into the cool, green grass.

"How lovely this is," she said, looking up the tall tree above us.
"Look at its great tent of white blossoms against the blue sky; it's
like a picture of Japan!"

After a time, when we were tired of the garden, we went out and turned
down the white road to explore the country.

It was very hot, and the glare from the road excessive, but as it was
all new to us it all seemed delightful, even to the white dust that
coated our lips and got into our eyes whenever the breeze stirred.

After about a mile and a half of walking we came to an oak wood. The
road dipped suddenly between cool, green, mossy banks and lay in deep,
grateful shade from the arching oaks above. I climbed the bank on one
side and looked into the wood. It was very thick and wild, apparently
rarely penetrated. Through the close-growing stems of the undergrowth
I saw a bluebell carpet lying like inverted sky beneath the oaks.

"The wood looks very attractive," I said as I rejoined Viola; "but we
can't stay to go into it now. We haven't the time; it's half past
twelve already."

"I'm sorry," said Viola, looking wistfully at the green wood. "This is
the nicest part; but I suppose we can't disappoint that woman by not
getting back to luncheon."

So we walked back slowly through the noonday sun, admiring the double
pink May peeping out from the green hedges.

When we came in just before lunch, she took the easy chair facing the
window, and I sat down on one opposite and watched her. She was
wearing a white cambric dress that looked very simple and girlish; she
was smiling, and her face was delicately rose-coloured after the
walk.

A sense of responsibility came over me. She was my cousin, my own
blood relation. I must protect her, must think for her if she would
not think for herself.

"You know it's risky being down here like this. You had much better
come to some rustic church with me in another village and marry me
there."

"No. You know perfectly well I am not going to marry you," she said
softly, looking up at me with a smile in her eyes, great pools of blue
beneath their exquisitely arched lids.

"It is ridiculous to suppose that you, an artist of twenty-eight, will
want to keep faithful to one woman all the rest of your life - or her
life. It would be very bad for you, if you did. One can't go against
Nature, and Nature has not arranged things that way. Marriage is a
pleasure perhaps; but Nature never arranged, marriage, and a man
should not allow himself unnatural pleasures."

She was really laughing now, but I knew her resolve was perfectly
serious and I did not see how I could break it up.

"Well, but some men do keep to one woman all their life and are none
the worse for it; look at a country clergyman for instance."

Viola raised her eyebrows with a laugh.

"How can you be sure of the country clergyman? I expect he goes up to
town sometimes.... However, of course I admit he is fairly faithful,
but how about being none the worse for it? A country clergyman is
about the most undeveloped creature you could have, and a great artist
is the most developed, the nearest approach to a god of all human
beings."

I did not answer, but sat silent staring at her. She looked such a
sweet little Saxon schoolgirl in her white dress, but with such
tremendous character and power in those great shining eyes.

"But if we marry now," I said at last, "and anything should ... should
come between us, I don't see it would be any worse than...."

"Than if we were living together without marriage," she put in
quickly. "Yes, I think it would. Look here, if we marry now with a
great blaze and fuss, and invite all our friends to see the event,
which is great nonsense anyway, and then you see some other woman
later you covet, it seems to me there are only three ways open to us:
either you go without the woman and suffer very much in consequence
and always owe me a grudge for standing in your way; or you take her
and I have to profess to see nothing and look on quietly, which I
could never stand, it would send me mad; or we must have all the
trouble and worry and scandal of a divorce and call in the public to
witness our quarrel; and why _should_ we have the public to interfere
in our affairs?" she added, her eyes flashing. "What is it to them
whom I love or whom I live with, whom I leave or quarrel with? These
are all private matters."

"And if we live together and the same thing happens?" I pursued
quietly.

"Why, then we should separate, only without any trouble, any
publicity; we should fall apart naturally. If you preferred any one
else, you must go to her; I should slip away out of your life, and we
should each be free and untied."

"If it's so much better for the man to change," I said smiling, "it
must be the same for the woman."

"So it is," rejoined Viola quickly; "the more men a woman has the more
developed she is, the better for her morally, if there is no
conventional disgrace attaching to it. Amongst the Greeks, Aspasia and
all those women of her class were far more intellectual, more
developed than the wives who were kept at home to spin and rear
children."

"All these things ought to be optional. If a woman loves one man so
much she wants to stay with him for ever and ever, probably through
such a great passion she reaches her highest development; but until
she has found that man she ought to be allowed to go from one to
another without any disgrace attaching to it. And, of course, just the
same law holds good for the man."

"Outsiders like the world and the law ought never to be allowed to
interfere between a man and a woman. They never can know the right or
the wrong of their relations to each other well enough to enable them
to be judges. Nobody ever knows but the man and the woman themselves,
and they ought to be left alone; what they do, whether in quarrelling
or love, ought to be as private as the prayers one sends to Heaven."

She paused, and through the window came the gay, loud, triumphant call
of the cuckoo seeking its mate of an hour in the heart of the glad
green wood.

Viola listened with a look of delight.

"How happy they are!" she said. And the note came again, instinct with
love and joy.

"How well Nature arranged everything, and how Man has spoiled it all!
Fancy passion, the most subtle, evanescent, delicate, elusive
emotion - and yet one so strong - fancy that being bound down by crabbed
and crooked laws, being confined by wretched little conventions!"

"But, anyway, we shall have to say we are married here."

"Oh, say anything you like," rejoined Viola laughing; "saying doesn't
do any harm."

"Yes, but then we must fix some place where we've _been_ married and
all that, do you see; we'd better go somewhere further off I think and
stay away some time and come back married. I do feel very worried
about it, Viola. I think it would be much simpler to do it than to
lie about it."

Viola jumped up and came over to me.

"Dear Trevor, I am _so_ sorry you are worried, but really it will work
out all right. We will go abroad somewhere from here, we might go to
Rome, it's a lovely time of year, and then to Sicily, to Taormina, ...
and we'll stay away a year and you finish the picture and I'll write
an opera, and then we'll come back married to town in the season and
we'll have _been_ married before we leave England of course, and then
it will be a year ago, and I don't think anybody will bother about it
much."

I looked down upon her. She was so pretty and so dear to me: I must
keep her, and if those were the only terms upon which she would stay
with me I must accept them.

The landlady came into the room at this minute followed by the maid to
lay the luncheon; in the landlady's hand was a fat, black book which
she presented diffidently to Viola.

"It's the Visitors' book, ma'am," she said. "I thought you and the
gentleman would like to write your names in it in case of any
letters...."

"Yes, very much," returned Viola promptly, with a little side smile at
me, and sat down and wrote in it.

When she had done so, she closed the book, and as the maid was in and
out of the room during luncheon, it was not till it was finished and
cleared away and we were alone that I asked her what she had written.

"Mr. and Mrs. Lonsdale; that's right, isn't it? I did not put Trevor
for I always think 'make your lies short' is a good rule."

"I thought you were such a truthful person," I said a little sadly.

"So I am - to you, for instance, so I should be to any one who has the
right to hear truth; but the world has no right, and I don't care what
lies I tell it, it's such an inquisitive old bore!"

I laughed. Viola always made you laugh when you felt you ought to be
angry with her.

"Come out now," I said, "let's enjoy this lovely afternoon. I should
like to paint you under that tree," I added musingly, looking out on
the tree in its white glory.

"In your usual style?" she returned laughing. "I don't think you could
here. Mrs. Jevons would turn me out as not being respectable; not even
being Mrs. Lonsdale would save me."

"You would make a lovely picture, even dressed," I returned, musing;
"but then of course it would not sell for half the price."

"Nothing is really snapped at but the nude. That lovely landscape I
painted when I was young and foolish, - it took me two years to work
it off, and the veriest little daub of an unclothed girl goes directly
at a hundred guineas."

"A great compliment to our natural charms," laughed Viola. "I am
delighted personally at anything that is a note of protest against the
tyranny of the dressmaker and fashion."

"What shall we do?" I queried; "it's beautifully hot," I added
persuasively.

"I'll tell you: we will go into the oak wood; the oaks grow low and
the ground and the land rise all round, no one can possibly see us
without coming quite close; on that blue carpet you shall paint me
lying asleep, we will call the picture 'The Soul of the Wood,' and you
shall sell it for a thousand. Come along."

So it was decided, and with one of her thick cloaks, that she could
throw round her instantly if surprised, and my artist's pack we
started for the wood.

It was a hot golden day, the one day we should get of really fine
weather in the whole English year, and when we reached the wood the
light under the oak boughs was magnificent, a soft mellow glory
falling down on the blue hyacinths which grew so closely together that
it was as if a sea of vivid colour had invaded the dell or a great
patch of the blue sky had fallen there.

We had difficulty in getting into the wood as the undergrowth of
young oak scrub made it almost impenetrable; it stood up straight, and
the great, swaying, huge, spreading boughs of the old oaks above came
down and rested on and amongst the young oaks, like a roof upon
pillars, and the leaves of both intermingled till they were like green
silk curtains hung from ceiling to floor. When we had finally pushed
through almost on our hands and knees to the centre of the wood, the
scrub grew less close, the carpet of blue was perfect, a circle of
green shut us in, we were in a magic chamber, through the roof of
which came floods of green and golden light.

Viola cast aside the "tyranny of the dressmaker" and shook out her
light hair. Then she threw herself on the hyacinth bed, looking
upwards to the low arching roof. At that moment the call of the
cuckoo, wild, entrancing, came overhead, and she raised her arms with
a look of rapture as the slim grey bird dashed through the upper oak
branches in pursuit of its mate. It was a perfect pose for the "Soul
of the Wood," and I begged her to keep it while I rapidly caught the
idea and sketched it in roughly in charcoal.

Those happy sunlit hours in the wood, how fast they slipped away! I
was absorbed in the work and completely happy in it, and Viola I
believe was equally happy in the delight she knew she was giving me.

We came back very hungry to our tea, and very pleased with ourselves,
the sketch, and our successful afternoon.

It was six o'clock, the light was mellowing, and a thrush singing with
all its own wonderful passion and rapture on the lawn. The scent of
the lilac, intensely sweet, came in at the window and filled the room.

In the evening we went out and sat under the cherry-tree, watching the
stars come out and gleam through its white bloom.

"Sing me the Abendstern," murmured Viola, leaning her head against me.
"I was a dutiful model all the afternoon, it's your turn to amuse me
now."

So I sang the Abendstern to her under the cherry-tree, and its white
shadow enveloped us both, making her face look very beautiful under
it; and when I had finished singing we kissed each other and agreed
that the world was a very delightful place as long as there was
Wagner's music in it, and cherry-trees to sit under, and white bloom
and stars and lips to kiss.

Between nine and ten, after a very countrified supper we went up to
bed in the slanting-roofed room under the thatch, full still of the
tender light of a spring evening.

The next day was delicious, too, and the next, but on the fourth we
were quite ready to go. We had drained the cup of joy which that
particular place held for us and it had no more to offer. The
cherry-tree pleased us still, but it did not give us the ecstatic
thrill of the first view of it. The lilac scent streamed in, but it
did not go to the head and intoxicate us as when we came straight from
the air of Waterloo; the thrush gurgled as passionately on the deep
green lawn, but the gurgle did not stir the blood. All was the same,
only the strange spell of novelty was gone.

Viola seemed so pleased to be leaving it quite hurt me. When I went
upstairs I found her packing her little handbag with alacrity and
singing.

"Are you glad to be going?" I asked.

"Yes," she said surprised; "are not you?"

"But you have been happy here?" I said with a tone of remonstrance.

"Oh, yes!" she exclaimed; "wildly, intensely happy! It's been four
days' enchantment, but then it's gone now; we can't get any _more_ out
of this place. We have enjoyed it so much we have drained it,
exhausted it; like the bees, we must move on to a fresh flower."

It was true that was all we could do, yet I looked round the bare
attic-like room with regret. Could ever another give me more than that
had done? Could there ever be a keener joy, a deeper delight than I
had known in the shadows of that first violet night?




PART THREE

THE BLACK NIGHT




CHAPTER VI

IN MAYFAIR


The spring of the next year found us installed in a small house in
Mayfair, for the season.

For a year we had been abroad; the summer in Italy, the winter in
Egypt, and had come back with our eyes full of colour, armed against
the deadly greyness of England for three months at least.

We had travelled as Mr. and Mrs. Lonsdale, we came back as Mr. and
Mrs. Lonsdale. There had been no difficulty so far. Every one seemed
satisfied, and what was far more important, so were we.

The whole top floor of the Mayfair house was my studio, and made a
fairly large and convenient one. We kept on the old studio as a matter
of sentiment, but rarely went there now.

The "Phryne" and the "Soul of the Wood" had been finished and accepted
for exhibition. Both were sold, the "Phryne" for five thousand pounds,
the "Soul of the Wood" for four thousand, and I had brought from
abroad many unfinished sketches and partly finished pictures.

In all this time we had lived very close to each other: Viola had been
my only model against an ever-varied background. Not the faintest
shadow had flecked the sunshine of our passion for each other. Viola
had written her operetta, and it had been taken for a London theatre.
A Captain Lawton had written the libretto under the title of the "Lily
of Canton." The music was weird and charming, suited to the strange
Chinese story and scenery. It was to be produced in May, and Viola
always spoke of the first night with excited joy.

It had been a full, rich year. Like bees, as Viola had said, we had


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