13. The Events Of One Day
1. THE FIFTH OF JANUARY. BEFORE DAWN
We pass over the intervening weeks. The time of the story is thus advanced
more than a quarter of a year.
On the midnight preceding the morning which would make her the wife of a man
whose presence fascinated her into involuntariness of bearing, and whom in
absence she almost dreaded, Cytherea lay in her little bed, vainly endeavouring
She had been looking back amid the years of her short though varied past, and
thinking of the threshold upon which she stood. Days and months had dimmed
the form of Edward Springrove like the gauzes of a vanishing stage-scene, but
his dying voice could still be heard faintly behind. That a soft small chord in her
still vibrated true to his memory, she would not admit: that she did not approach
Manston with feelings which could by any stretch of words be called hymeneal,
she calmly owned.
'Why do I marry him?' she said to herself. 'Because Owen, dear Owen my
brother, wishes me to marry him. Because Mr. Manston is, and has been,
uniformly kind to Owen, and to me. "Act in obedience to the dictates of common-
sense," Owen said, "and dread the sharp sting of poverty. How many thousands
of women like you marry every year for the same reason, to secure a home, and
mere ordinary, material comforts, which after all go far to make life endurable,
even if not supremely happy."
''Tis right, I suppose, for him to say that. O, if people only knew what a timidity
and melancholy upon the subject of her future grows up in the heart of a
friendless woman who is blown about like a reed shaken with the wind, as I am,
they would not call this resignation of one's self by the name of scheming to get a
husband. Scheme to marry? I'd rather scheme to die! I know I am not pleasing
my heart; I know that if I only were concerned, I should like risking a single future.
But why should I please my useless self overmuch, when by doing otherwise I
please those who are more valuable than I?'
In the midst of desultory reflections like these, which alternated with surmises as
to the inexplicable connection that appeared to exist between her intended
husband and Miss Aldclyffe, she heard dull noises outside the walls of the house,
which she could not quite fancy to be caused by the wind. She seemed doomed
to such disturbances at critical periods of her existence. 'It is strange,' she
pondered, 'that this my last night in Knapwater House should be disturbed
precisely as my first was, no occurrence of the kind having intervened.'
As the minutes glided by the noise increased, sounding as if some one were
beating the wall below her window with a bunch of switches. She would gladly
have left her room and gone to stay with one of the maids, but they were without
doubt all asleep.
The only person in the house likely to be awake, or who would have brains
enough to comprehend her nervousness, was Miss Aldclyffe, but Cytherea never