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Two on a Tower

Chapter 4
It was a bright starlight night, a week or ten days later. There had been several
such nights since the occasion of Lady Constantine's promise to Swithin St.
Cleeve to come and study astronomical phenomena on the Rings-Hill column;
but she had not gone there. This evening she sat at a window, the blind of which
had not been drawn down. Her elbow rested on a little table, and her cheek on
her hand. Her eyes were attracted by the brightness of the planet Jupiter, as he
rode in the ecliptic opposite, beaming down upon her as if desirous of notice.
Beneath the planet could be still discerned the dark edges of the park landscape
against the sky. As one of its features, though nearly screened by the trees which
had been planted to shut out the fallow tracts of the estate, rose the upper part of
the column. It was hardly visible now, even if visible at all; yet Lady Constantine
knew from daytime experience its exact bearing from the window at which she
leaned. The knowledge that there it still was, despite its rapid envelopment by the
shades, led her lonely mind to her late meeting on its summit with the young
astronomer, and to her promise to honour him with a visit for learning some
secrets about the scintillating bodies overhead. The curious juxtaposition of
youthful ardour and old despair that she had found in the lad would have made
him interesting to a woman of perception, apart from his fair hair and early-
Christian face. But such is the heightening touch of memory that his beauty was
probably richer in her imagination than in the real. It was a moot point to consider
whether the temptations that would be brought to bear upon him in his course
would exceed the staying power of his nature. Had he been a wealthy youth he
would have seemed one to tremble for. In spite of his attractive ambitions and
gentlemanly bearing, she thought it would possibly be better for him if he never
became known outside his lonely tower,--forgetting that he had received such
intellectual enlargement as would probably make his continuance in Welland
seem, in his own eye, a slight upon his father's branch of his family, whose social
standing had been, only a few years earlier, but little removed from her own.
Suddenly she flung a cloak about her and went out on the terrace. She passed
down the steps to the lower lawn, through the door to the open park, and there
stood still. The tower was now discernible. As the words in which a thought is
expressed develop a further thought, so did the fact of her having got so far
influence her to go further. A person who had casually observed her gait would
have thought it irregular; and the lessenings and increasings of speed with which
she proceeded in the direction of the pillar could be accounted for only by a
motive much more disturbing than an intention to look through a telescope. Thus
she went on, till, leaving the park, she crossed the turnpike-road, and entered the
large field, in the middle of which the fir-clad hill stood like Mont St. Michel in its
The stars were so bright as distinctly to show her the place, and now she could
see a faint light at the top of the column, which rose like a shadowy finger
pointing to the upper constellations. There was no wind, in a human sense; but a
steady stertorous breathing from the fir-trees showed that, now as always, there