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felt so happy, her feet had never had such wings as on this
early summer evening when she stepped into the soft hot air
laden with the scent of sweet flowering grasses. The air
was full of light, the sky was all gold; looking up through
the heavy, drooping, tent-like leaves she saw the white
pyramid of the horse-chestnut blossom glow whitely against
it; soft, ardent trills from hidden birds gushed out from
every hedge and bush, the spirit of the summer night seemed
to breathe upon her cheek, her heart was leaping, expectancy
seemed in all her blood, something seemed calling her,
awaiting her beyond those deep-leaved, protecting horse-
chestnut trees. She was in those glorious moments of youth
when nothing lies behind and nothing is known, but in front
there is the shining mystery of Life, all veiled, uncertain
and obscure, yet dazzling, calling. As yet she knew nothing,
and all that surrounded her seemed in tender, silent con-

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56 LIFE'S SHOP WINDOW

spiracy against her, keeping the secret that she too soon would
know. Those little birds singing so passionately beside her,
they knew it; the blooms, the white pyramids of bloom
above her head distilling their fragrance in the dreamy air,
they knew it; the bright rosy clouds, the sleepily-folding
flowers, the tiny squeaking bats, the dancing mayflies beneath
the young green lime trees, they knew it. For Love
is Life, and Life is Love, and to know one is to know the other,
and to be ignorant of one is to be ignorant of the other,
though a man have all the book-learning of the ages in his
brain. She felt happy, she was on the edge of the great secret.
A joyous wonder, a delight ran through her with each quick-
ened breath as she went onward amidst the tender mysteries
of the summer night. Just at the end of the horse chestnuts
she came under a magnificent cherry tree. It was one mass
of snowy pink-tipped bloom, and looking up, the girl saw it
against the warm gold of the sky beyond and paused, her
heart filled with rapture. For she was an aesthete , born,
and in every sense, and beauty always called to her, in a
commanding tone, to worship. The perfect, stainless pink
and white blossoms against the radiant golden sky enchanted
her, she stood still gazing at the height and size and beauty
of the tree and drinking in the loveliness of the picture.
Now she understood all that the romances she had read had
told her and so much more. Why had they made so little
of love ? it was absurd. There could not be more difference
between being in and out of life itself than there was between
being in and out of love. This wonderful surging wave of joy
rising up in all her veins was something more than life itself.
Some days had passed since Bernard had come back
from town and she had hardly had a word with him, but
what days they had been! She had sped lightly through
her work, hardly conscious of it, and the glance of his eyes
when they met hers, as they said good-night, seemed to
follow her up the narrow stairs and remain with her all night
glowing in the darkness. She had had little sleep and little
food and somehow had seemed to need neither.



LIFE'S SHOP WINDOW 57

Bernard was to wait for her by the old church they had
thought the orchard too near home and as she crossed the
last field, full of weeds in flower, she saw his large form
against the grey moss-covered wall. Her heart beat sud-
denly to suffocation and she slackened her pace. She did
not wish him to see her so hot and excited. So at last, walk-
ing slowly, she emerged from the edge of the field where the
larches threw a cool deep shadow. Bernard took her hand
in his but did not stoop over her and attempt to kiss her
as she vaguely expected, but said merely, as they turned to
walk beside the wall,

"I am glad you've come it seemed a long time."

"I came when I could," she answered, a little coldly,
hurt by his restrained manner. "You don't want me par-
ticularly, do you?" she added rather pointedly.

"Yes, I do. I have something particular to show you,"
and he put his hand into his breast pocket and drew out a
folded paper.

Lydia forgot her little chagrin.

"Is it a dress pattern ?" she asked eagerly, walking closer
to his side so that the soft-haired head almost brushed his
shoulder. She thought suddenly he had perhaps brought
something back for her from town.

Bernard laughed shortly. There was something a little
hard in the laugh and the mocking tone in which he answered,
"Yes, it's a dress pattern! Lydia, it's a marriage license
this enables us to be married at once, do you see. I am sorry
I could not bring you a pretty ring as I wanted, but the
license and the wedding ring took all the money I had."
He paused suddenly. The girl had stopped and was staring
at him; her face was quite white in the golden light and her
bosom rose and fell convulsively. She was surprised, aston-
ished, her breath was taken away literally so that she could
not answer him.

"Why why do you want us to marry so soon?" she
stammered, looking at him, and as in the hollow, the terror
of this unknown thing seemed to stare at her out of the



68 LIFE'S SHOP WINDOW

yellow sunshine all round them. That and the same odd
delight it brought with it hammered and tugged at her heart.
All the hesitation women feel at that last moment, before
they enter Life's vast shop to make their first purchase,
was upon her. That question that faces them all so grimly,
Suppose she wanted to buy something else later on? faced
her and caused her hesitation, though she herself did not
know the cause.

"We are so happy as we are, can't we go on like this ?"

The eternal woman's appeal to the man: eternally an-
swered in the negative.

"No, we can't," Bernard answered decisively. "I
could not see you and meet you secretly like this unless you
will marry me."

"But why not? I don't see," persisted Lydia.

"Never mind, don't let's trouble to discuss it," he said.
"I can't, that's why I got the license and everything why
should you be so upset, dearest, you promised me you
would."

Looking up she was struck by the strange white, repressed
look on his face, in which the eyes seemed kindling.

"I did not say when," she retorted, with a sulky little
smile.

"No, but you will now: say to-morrow or the next day,
do, dearest, you must say it," and then suddenly he flung
his arm round her waist, drew her against him and kissed
her.

Lydia questioned his decision, his judgment, his reasons
no longer; her apprehensions were quick and she learnt much
from the kiss, which left her white, dazed and trembling.
She slipped her arm softly into his for support and they went
on for a few steps in silence.

The light was softening, mellowing, and delicious rosy
blushes were stealing into the sky, the shadows by the copse
were a tender violet, and a cool sweetness stole out from them.

Lydia walked on languidly, thinking life was an ecstatic
thing. Her indecision was over, she ceased to struggle, she



LIFE'S SHOP WINDOW 59

would leave it all to him, he must settle, manage, arrange it
all as he would. She would give herself to him and let him
do with her what he would. It was nothing wrong, nothing
dishonourable that he asked of her. It was a new strange
wonderful thing this to come jumping into one's life so sud'
denly, this pleasure and excitement, this acquiring of a great
live, strong, restless human being and having it belong
to one and belonging to it, but there was absolutely nothing
wrong in it, since husbands were things most women had
and there was no one who could possibly blame her. It is
not to every nature that stolen kisses are the sweetest. To
Lydia, young, open-minded and guiltless, the least suspicion
of dishonour would have swept away the whole of her hap-
piness, but as it was she could abandon herself to the strange
new joy and let it carry her forward where it would. Influ-
enced by this feeling she walked on in silence, she asked no
question and made no remark. She had not the faintest
idea of how they could be married or where or when, but
she supposed if he wished it he would arrange it somehow.
She drank in the deep sweet peace of the summer evening,
the scent of dew from the fields, and the sense of the mystery
of life going on all round her: she was elated for now she
was entering it too. She had never walked down a narrow
twilight lane where the field flowers were folding up in the
hedges and the sky was growing rosy overhead with her arm
resting in a man's arm before. The birds were twittering
fussily as they nestled down together and small animals
rustled through the grass. She did not envy them now, as
she had often done lately, their happy companionship, their
small, soft mates. All that was settled and she watched
the tender, pinky twilight gather with contented eyes.

Bernard's thoughts on one hot eager trail were very
different. "To-morrow," he said, after a long silence,
abruptly and speaking with a sort of quiet force, "the Ander-
sons are going to Ambleside. Mrs Anderson told me so.
Betsey and the cook will be left in charge of the house. I
want you to come over to Keswick with me, where we can



60 LIFE'S SHOP WINDOW

be married, and and we can come back the next day be-
fore they return," he finished hurriedly.

The thought of decisive action jarred upon her mood and
disturbed her. It was as if he had seized her b^ the arm
and was hurrying her violently to the edge of a stream she
was not prepared to jump over. "Why are they goi g to
Ambleside?" she asked inconsequently.

"I believe Mrs Anderson's sister's husband has died
and they are going to see what they can do for her; I under-
stood they would not come back till the next day at noon.
Itold them I had business inKeswick andshould be away too."

"You don't want them to know we are going to be mar-
ried?" Lydia asked, looking up at him. The lane was
very quiet, sweetly still, only a bat now and then flew silently
over their heads, in the soft air, against the rose-coloured sky.

"Well it is only because you say the old lady is so much
against it," he answered, "and would make herself dis-
agreeable. If she did we should have to go away; it shall
be just as you like, Lydia darling, we will do that if you like,
only when I came here I paid a premium to cover every-
thing, my board and so on, and if I leave I suppose I must
waste it. Then I have no place to take you to; it doesn't
seem worth while to think of making a home here for as soon
as I've collected the money I'll get the passages and we'll
start for America."

Lydia was silent. She was thinking it was nice to be
called "darling," delightful to hear the eager passion in his
voice and know that she was creating it.

"I thought," he continued after a moment, " it would be
better, would save us a little if we went on living here just as if
nothing had happened till I was ready to start. The premium
used up some of my ready money and the license cost me a lot;
but but if you don't like the idea, we'll arrange something
else."

"I don't mind. I should like it to be any way you like,"
she answered softly, "only wouldn't it be better if we waited
to marry till you are ready to start ? "



LIFE'S SHOP WINDOW 61

"No, no, no!" he exclaimed passionately, stopping in
the lane and drawing her round into his arms, "I want you
now, now for my very own."

Lydia leant her head back on his shoulder, unresisting.

"Very well," she murmured, her will submerged in his.

"Will you be ready to-morrow, when they have left, to
come over with me ? " he asked after a minute.

"Yes, I will be ready," she answered, and between the
waves of delight she felt at the idea of wholly belonging to
him and the wonder at the transformation coming over her
life, the thought intruded itself that she must get up early
the next morning in time to wash, starch and iron her best
white cotton dress to wear for the great event. "What
time are they going?" she asked.

"At eleven o'clock, before dinner, and they take the
children; there will be no one to interfere with you. I've
managed it all with Betsey. Someone had to know but
I've made it all right with her. She won't say a word. If
you leave the house at half -past eleven I will meet you up
beyond the fir wood on the hill and we can walk into Keswick
by the Sticks Pass in two hours or so. Will you mind the
walk," he added anxiously, "will it be too far for you ?"

Lydia laughed.

"How nicely you have planned everything! You must
have thought about our marrying quite a long time!"

"Darling! I have never thought about anything else since
I first saw you!" he exclaimed; "this is the opportunity I
have been waiting for," and Lydia felt surprise. After all
he had said so little and thought and meant so much. With
women it is so different, she reflected they say so much
and mean so little.

"Well then we get to Keswick say about two," he con-
tinued, eagerly pursuing what to him was a well-worn train
of thought, "and we will go and be married at once, the
first thing. Then we'll go to the inn and have tea, then we'll
stroll about by the lake and we'll come back the next day."

"Very well," Lydia answered with a little pant in her



62 LIFE'S SHOP WINDOW

voice, and looked away into the dusky hedge with a beating
heart. They walked on very slowly. At the end of the
lane, and in an angle where another lane joined it, there was
an old oak tree. It had been agreed they should separate
there and Bernard go round by the village and so home,
while the girl should walk back by one of the lanes,
so that if met near the farm she might seem to have been
merely taking a walk alone. Under the oak when they came
to it they stood to say good-night, and Lydia, with a vague
prescience that never again in life could she be quite as
happy as then, clung to each moment as it passed. But
the minutes slip from us however we hold to them in the
mad race-by of time, and those dusky pink moments faded
rapidly and silver stars came out and glinted through the
budding oak leaves. At last she had given Bernard the
good-night kiss and he had walked away towards the village
without looking back. Lydia slipped from the shade of the
great tree and took her way homewards down the slanting
lane at the side of the one by which they had come. It was
quite light with that mysterious luminous twilight of sum-
mer in England that is so absent in the East. That hushed
light summer dusk, what a madness it stirs in the heart and
blood of youth! The lilac in the hedges on either side of the
lane made the dusk heavy with fragrance and it poured
through the girl's nostrils till her brain and heart seemed
bursting. Everywhere was tender light, sweet-scented still-
ness, and the mysterious suggestion of love, of passion,
of joy of the delight and wonder of Life and of the World.
It seemed to come out and meet her from the branches of the
may trees overhead laden with white blossom, and to steal
out of the closed flowers sleeping in the hedge and be expressed
in the disturbed twitter of some small wakeful bird in its
nest. She walked on, possessed with a sense of exaltation,
her feet light and springing, her cheeks aflame, her eyes wide
and burning looking out questioningly into the twilight of
the wonderful maddening summer night.



PART II
THE FIRST PURCHASE



CHAPTER IV

ALTHOUGH she had slept little through the night Lydia was
up the following morning as soon as the first grey glimmer of
the dawn stole into her room. She felt strong, glad and
happy, with the wine of excitement flowing fast in all her
veins, and she slipped down the stairs through the sleeping
house, with her cotton dress on her arm, to the wash-house.
She soon had a fire lighted and hot water, and the short
simple garment was quickly washed through before the
light had grown strong enough to show up clearly the things
in the kitchen. As she was getting the starch water ready
she caught sight of her flushed happy face in the little square
of glass hanging opposite her on the wash-house wall and
paused a moment looking at it, with her round moist arms
resting on the edge of the steaming tub. How good it was
to have firm round cheeks like that, and great velvety eyes,
to have Bernard and to be loved and caressed; looking
at the round white throat in the glass she remembered how
he had kissed it last night; a hot blush burnt all over her
face and she turned sharply to the starching bowl. She was
buying him with all these things she knew. He was the new
version of the big doll with the fat stuffed body she had so
loved and covetec} a few years back and bought because she,

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64 LIFE'S SHOP WINDOW

had been lucky enough to have the necessary pence of its price.
Now again she had, it seemed, the necessary price. It was
a great thing to be able to buy what you wanted in this world,
she reflected, as she deftly starched and stiffened the cotton
and the light grew strong in the kitchen. She felt very con-
tented, and that the price she was paying might possibly
have got her a better doll, or that accumulated toys are some-
times troublesome, and that warehousing bills in life are
sometimes heavy, never occurred to her. As the light grew
she filled up the kettles and put them on the fire for the
breakfasts and then ran upstairs with the finished dress in
her arms to her room, where she set it out carefully by the
window to get rid of its dampness. The morning was a
very busy one, the Andersons were fussy and excited about
their visit, and it seemed to the girl they would never get off.
Bella Anderson seemed to stare at her so queerly too: she
wondered if her happy secret was visible in her face.

"You do look gay," that young lady remarked as she
called Lydia into her room at the last minute to brush her
dress for her. "What's come to you? I believe you're
walking out with someone!" she added suspiciously as
Lydia's colour heightened visibly and she bent over the flounce
of the other's dress.

"No indeed," she murmured in reply.

"Like as not," returned Bella, giving the brim of her
hat a vicious tug as she surveyed her own unpleasing image
in the glass.

"Well, if I find it out I'll tell ma and you'll just pack."

Lydia did not answer at all but she felt a great sense of
gratitude swell in her towards Bernard, who was going to
make her independent of all these people, a great joy to
think after to-day she would be mistress of a certain life
of her own. Married! Then nothing would matter, nothing
any of them could say or do would harm her.

"There, that'll do," said Bella, sharply, "don't brush me
into holes : give me my sunshade, it's gone down behind the
bed there,"



65

Lydia crawled under the bed after the sunshade and
emerged again with it, red in the face and dusty. She was
glad of the excuse for she could feel the blood was burning
in her cheeks.

Bella took it in silence and sailed downstairs, looking
from head to foot the country girl in her best clothes, and
Lydia from a side window saw the whole party fit them-
selves into the heavy country cart and lumber off down the
road. Then there was a great silence in the house in which
she suddenly seemed to hear her heart beating and her
breath coming and going. Bernard had had some lunch
and gone off early, nominally to Keswick, but Lydia knew
he would be waiting for her beyond the fir wood. With a
curious terror and delight at the realisation that the time
had come for her to take the last step, and her thoughts
shying away from the aim and object of her expedition and
absolutely refusing to stand in front of it, she turned from
the window and went up to dress. In her fresh white cotton,
a white straw hat and white cotton gloves, she came down a
quarter of an hour later and went into the kitchen to find
Betsey. The old woman was scouring out the saucepans as
she entered, but stopped at her entry, and leaning against
the kitchen table, watched her come up, with folded hands.

"Betsey," said the girl, in her soft, caressing voice, "Mr
Chetwynd has told you all about it, hasn't he ? You will
be our friend, won't you, and not say anything about
about this to Miss Bella or anyone ? "

"That I will, my dear," said the old woman, eyeing her
keenly from head to foot. "Mr Chetwynd has behaved
to me like a gentleman and he shall never be worried by my
tongue. You go and get married, and good luck to you.
You make a handsome pair, you do. As for Miss Bella, she
don't like me and I don't like her, but you, my dearie, you've
been awful good to me and I'm glad you've got a personable
young gentleman to take you up and marry you, that I am."
Lydia bent forward and pressed her rosy lips to the old
woman's wrinkled cheek in silence. Then she walked
5



66

sedately out of the kitchen and on across the gardens and
fields to the high road. Alone on the road a certain sense
of anxiety weighed upon her: physical and mental ner-
vousness seemed trembling all through her, but the moment
she felt the cool breath of the pine wood touch her face,
and saw Bernard's tall figure moving restlessly up and down
on its border, every misgiving fell from her. She felt joyous,
confident. This was what she was marrying for. For
nothing else. For the possession of this large vital being.
It was natural that as her eyes rested on him she should
feel content, and perhaps not so content at other times. It
was the old tale of the big doll in the toy shop that had
appealed so irresistibly to her, extended behind the panes of
the shop window.

"I thought you were never coming," he exclaimed,
"it has seemed terrible ages that I have been waiting here."
Lydia looked up and saw that his face seemed lined with
anxiety.

"I am so sorry," she said gently.

"I felt as if something would happen, would prevent
your coming," he continued feverishly as they started side
by side to breast the hill that rolled upward above the fir
wood.

"Well then we must have been married some other
day," she answered tranquilly, a little surprised at the fierce,
strained tension of his manner.

Bernard gave a dry laugh but no immediate reply. After
a minute he slipped his arm round her waist as they walked
side by side and said caressingly, with relief in his voice
and manner,

"But you are here, darling, you have been able to come,
nothing else matters."

"No, nothing natters," she answered joyfully, and join-
ing hands they ran up the hill in the face of the sweet morn-
ing air. The blue sky laughed over them, the purple hills
rolled round them, the light nodding grass sprang up again
as their footsteps passed over it: the song of the birds rose



LIFE'S SHOP WINDOW 67

in a great chorus on every side in the sunlight and to the girl
that walk seemed over too quickly; Keswick was reached
almost before she wished it.

The streets of the town were dusty and deserted. It
was the hot, unpleasant time of day when even the dogs in
the streets crept into shady corners. Bernard and Lydia
walked along almost in silence straight to the small stone
church in its confined yard of scanty green near the market
square. As they passed in an old ragged woman begged
of Lydia at the gate. The girl had nothing with her and
Bernard hardly noticed the beggar. The church door stood
ajar as if grudging entry, as is the way with English churches,
and the old verger shuffled round from the back to meet them.

In another moment Bernard and Lydia had passed in
to the grey interior from the hot sunlight and wavering
shadows of the laughing poplar trees and their dancing
leaves. The old beggar sat down by the gateway and eyed
the church door with a sullen stare. The minutes passed,
minutes that pass ever so lightly and quickly, weighted
though they are with human destinies, and at last she saw
them come out. In their faces was all the happy glow of
triumphant life and love. The haggard eyes watching
them saw the man draw the girl's arm into his with infinite
desiring tenderness and the girl smile up into his face with
quick pleasure and delight.

Nearer they came on to the gate, and as they passed her
the old beggar spat vigorously on the ground. "Do you
think you'll wear that sprig of may long, stuck in your chest ? "
she said with vicious emphasis, looking up at Bernard as he
passed. "Such as that ain't for plain coats long!"

Lydia pressed his arm as they hurried through the gate
once more into the sleepy, dusty streets. "What did she
mean, Bernard?" she asked. She was tender-hearted, sen-
sitive and sympathetic, and the old woman's ragged misery
distressed her. "Shall we give her anything?"



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