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Night and Day

CHAPTER XVI
Into that same black night, almost, indeed, into the very same layer of starlit air,
Katharine Hilbery was now gazing, although not with a view to the prospects of a
fine day for duck shooting on the morrow. She was walking up and down a gravel
path in the garden of Stogdon House, her sight of the heavens being partially
intercepted by the light leafless hoops of a pergola. Thus a spray of clematis
would completely obscure Cassiopeia, or blot out with its black pattern myriads of
miles of the Milky Way. At the end of the pergola, however, there was a stone
seat, from which the sky could be seen completely swept clear of any earthly
interruption, save to the right, indeed, where a line of elm-trees was beautifully
sprinkled with stars, and a low stable building had a full drop of quivering silver
just issuing from the mouth of the chimney. It was a moonless night, but the light
of the stars was sufficient to show the outline of the young woman's form, and the
shape of her face gazing gravely, indeed almost sternly, into the sky. She had
come out into the winter's night, which was mild enough, not so much to look with
scientific eyes upon the stars, as to shake herself free from certain purely
terrestrial discontents. Much as a literary person in like circumstances would
begin, absent-mindedly, pulling out volume after volume, so she stepped into the
garden in order to have the stars at hand, even though she did not look at them.
Not to be happy, when she was supposed to be happier than she would ever be
again--that, as far as she could see, was the origin of a discontent which had
begun almost as soon as she arrived, two days before, and seemed now so
intolerable that she had left the family party, and come out here to consider it by
herself. It was not she who thought herself unhappy, but her cousins, who
thought it for her. The house was full of cousins, much of her age, or even
younger, and among them they had some terribly bright eyes. They seemed
always on the search for something between her and Rodney, which they
expected to find, and yet did not find; and when they searched, Katharine
became aware of wanting what she had not been conscious of wanting in
London, alone with William and her parents. Or, if she did not want it, she missed
it. And this state of mind depressed her, because she had been accustomed
always to give complete satisfaction, and her self-love was now a little ruffled.
She would have liked to break through the reserve habitual to her in order to
justify her engagement to some one whose opinion she valued. No one had
spoken a word of criticism, but they left her alone with William; not that that would
have mattered, if they had not left her alone so politely; and, perhaps, that would
not have mattered if they had not seemed so queerly silent, almost respectful, in
her presence, which gave way to criticism, she felt, out of it.
Looking now and then at the sky, she went through the list of her cousins' names:
Eleanor, Humphrey, Marmaduke, Silvia, Henry, Cassandra, Gilbert, and Mostyn--
Henry, the cousin who taught the young ladies of Bungay to play upon the violin,
was the only one in whom she could confide, and as she walked up and down
beneath the hoops of the pergola, she did begin a little speech to him, which ran
something like this:
 
 
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