Two on a Tower
The effect upon Swithin of the interview with the Bishop had been a very marked
one. He felt that he had good ground for resenting that dignitary's tone in
haughtily assuming that all must be sinful which at the first blush appeared to be
so, and in narrowly refusing a young man the benefit of a single doubt. Swithin's
assurance that he would be able to explain all some day had been taken in
'He may be as virtuous as his prototype Timothy; but he's an opinionated old
fogey all the same,' said St. Cleeve petulantly.
Yet, on the other hand, Swithin's nature was so fresh and ingenuous,
notwithstanding that recent affairs had somewhat denaturalized him, that for a
man in the Bishop's position to think him immoral was almost as overwhelming
as if he had actually been so, and at moments he could scarcely bear existence
under so gross a suspicion. What was his union with Lady Constantine worth to
him when, by reason of it, he was thought a reprobate by almost the only man
who had professed to take an interest in him?
Certainly, by contrast with his air-built image of himself as a worthy astronomer,
received by all the world, and the envied husband of Viviette, the present
imputation was humiliating. The glorious light of this tender and refined passion
seemed to have become debased to burlesque hues by pure accident, and his
aesthetic no less than his ethic taste was offended by such an anti-climax. He
who had soared amid the remotest grandeurs of nature had been taken to task
on a rudimentary question of morals, which had never been a question with him
at all. This was what the exigencies of an awkward attachment had brought him
to; but he blamed the circumstances, and not for one moment Lady Constantine.
Having now set his heart against a longer concealment he was disposed to think
that an excellent way of beginning a revelation of their marriage would be by
writing a confidential letter to the Bishop, detailing the whole case. But it was
impossible to do this on his own responsibility. He still recognized the
understanding entered into with Viviette, before the marriage, to be as binding as
ever,--that the initiative in disclosing their union should come from her. Yet he
hardly doubted that she would take that initiative when he told her of his
extraordinary reprimand in the churchyard.
This was what he had come to do when Louis saw him standing at the window.
But before he had said half-a-dozen words to Viviette she motioned him to go on,
which he mechanically did, ere he could sufficiently collect his thoughts on its
advisability or otherwise. He did not, however, go far. While Louis and his sister
were discussing him in the drawing-room he lingered musing in the churchyard,
hoping that she might be able to escape and join him in the consultation he so
She at last found opportunity to do this. As soon as Louis had left the room and
shut himself in upstairs she ran out by the window in the direction Swithin had
taken. When her footsteps began crunching on the gravel he came forward from
the churchyard door.