15. The Events Of Three Weeks
1. FROM THE TWELFTH OF FEBRUARY TO THE SECOND OF MARCH
Owen Graye's recovery from the illness that had incapacitated him for so long a
time was, professionally, the dawn of a brighter prospect for him in every
direction, though the change was at first very gradual, and his movements and
efforts were little more than mechanical. With the lengthening of the days, and
the revival of building operations for the forthcoming season, he saw himself, for
the first time, on a road which, pursued with care, would probably lead to a
comfortable income at some future day. But he was still very low down the hill as
The first undertaking entrusted to him in the new year began about a month after
his return from Southampton. Mr. Gradfield had come back to him in the wake of
his restored health, and offered him the superintendence, as clerk of works, of a
church which was to be nearly rebuilt at the village of Tolchurch, fifteen or sixteen
miles from Budmouth, and about half that distance from Carriford.
'I am now being paid at the rate of a hundred and fifty pounds a year,' he said to
his sister in a burst of thankfulness, 'and you shall never, Cytherea, be at any
tyrannous lady's beck and call again as long as I live. Never pine or think about
what has happened, dear; it's no disgrace to you. Cheer up; you'll be somebody's
happy wife yet.'
He did not say Edward Springrove's, for, greatly to his disappointment, a report
had reached his ears that the friend to whom Cytherea owed so much had been
about to pack up his things and sail for Australia. However, this was before the
uncertainty concerning Mrs. Manston's existence had been dispersed by her
return, a phenomenon that altered the cloudy relationship in which Cytherea had
lately been standing towards her old lover, to one of distinctness; which result
would have been delightful but for circumstances about to be mentioned.
Cytherea was still pale from her recent illness, and still greatly dejected. Until the
news of Mrs. Manston's return had reached them, she had kept herself closely
shut up during the day-time, never venturing forth except at night. Sleeping and
waking she had been in perpetual dread lest she should still be claimed by a man
whom, only a few weeks earlier, she had regarded in the light of a future
husband with quiet assent, not unmixed with cheerfulness.
But the removal of the uneasiness in this direction--by Mrs. Manston's arrival,
and her own consequent freedom--had been the imposition of pain in another.
Utterly fictitious details of the finding of Cytherea and Manston had been invented
and circulated, unavoidably reaching her ears in the course of time. Thus the
freedom brought no happiness, and it seemed well-nigh impossible that she
could ever again show herself the sparkling creature she once had been--
'Apt to entice a deity.'
On this account, and for the first time in his life, Owen made a point of concealing
from her the real state of his feelings with regard to the unhappy transaction. He
writhed in secret under the humiliation to which they had been subjected, till the
resentment it gave rise to, and for which there was no vent, was sometimes