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Two on a Tower

Chapter 26
Half an hour before this time Swithin St. Cleeve had been sitting in his cabin at
the base of the column, working out some figures from observations taken on
preceding nights, with a view to a theory that he had in his head on the motions
of certain so-called fixed stars.
The evening being a little chilly a small fire was burning in the stove, and this and
the shaded lamp before him lent a remarkably cosy air to the chamber. He was
awakened from his reveries by a scratching at the window-pane like that of the
point of an ivy leaf, which he knew to be really caused by the tip of his
sweetheart- wife's forefinger. He rose and opened the door to admit her, not
without astonishment as to how she had been able to get away from her friends.
'Dearest Viv, why, what's the matter?' he said, perceiving that her face, as the
lamplight fell on it, was sad, and even stormy.
'I thought I would run across to see you. I have heard something so--so--to your
discredit, and I know it can't be true! I know you are constancy itself; but your
constancy produces strange effects in people's eyes!'
'Good heavens! Nobody has found us out--'
'No, no--it is not that. You know, Swithin, that I am always sincere, and willing to
own if I am to blame in anything. Now will you prove to me that you are the same
by owning some fault to me?'
'Yes, dear, indeed; directly I can think of one worth owning.'
'I wonder one does not rush upon your tongue in a moment!'
'I confess that I am sufficiently a Pharisee not to experience that spontaneity.'
'Swithin, don't speak so affectedly, when you know so well what I mean! Is it
nothing to you that, after all our vows for life, you have thought it right to--flirt with
a village girl?'
'O Viviette!' interrupted Swithin, taking her hand, which was hot and trembling.
'You who are full of noble and generous feelings, and regard me with devoted
tenderness that has never been surpassed by woman,--how can you be so
greatly at fault? _I_ flirt, Viviette? By thinking that you injure yourself in my eyes.
Why, I am so far from doing so that I continually pull myself up for watching you
too jealously, as to-day, when I have been dreading the effect upon you of other
company in my absence, and thinking that you rather shut the gates against me
when you have big-wigs to entertain.'
'Do you, Swithin?' she cried. It was evident that the honest tone of his words was
having a great effect in clearing away the clouds. She added with an uncertain
smile, 'But how can I believe that, after what was seen to-day? My brother, not
knowing in the least that I had an iota of interest in you, told me that he
witnessed the signs of an attachment between you and Tabitha Lark in church,
this morning.'
'Ah!' cried Swithin, with a burst of laughter. 'Now I know what you mean, and
what has caused this misunderstanding! How good of you, Viviette, to come at
once and have it out with me, instead of brooding over it with dark imaginings,
and thinking bitter things of me, as many women would have done!' He succinctly