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Two on a Tower

Chapter 7
A fog defaced all the trees of the park that morning, the white atmosphere
adhered to the ground like a fungoid growth from it, and made the turfed
undulations look slimy and raw. But Lady Constantine settled down in her chair to
await the coming of the late curate's son with a serenity which the vast blanks
outside could neither baffle nor destroy.
At two minutes to twelve the door-bell rang, and a look overspread the lady's face
that was neither maternal, sisterly, nor amorous; but partook in an indescribable
manner of all three kinds. The door was flung open and the young man was
ushered in, the fog still clinging to his hair, in which she could discern a little
notch where she had nipped off the curl.
A speechlessness that socially was a defect in him was to her view a piquant
attribute just now. He looked somewhat alarmed.
'Lady Constantine, have I done anything, that you have sent--?' he began
breathlessly, as he gazed in her face, with parted lips.
'O no, of course not! I have decided to do something,--nothing more,' she
smilingly said, holding out her hand, which he rather gingerly touched. 'Don't look
so concerned. Who makes equatorials?'
This remark was like the drawing of a weir-hatch and she was speedily inundated
with all she wished to know concerning astronomical opticians. When he had
imparted the particulars he waited, manifestly burning to know whither these
inquiries tended.
'I am not going to buy you one,' she said gently.
He looked as if he would faint.
'Certainly not. I do not wish it. I--could not have accepted it,' faltered the young
man.
'But I am going to buy one for MYSELF. I lack a hobby, and I shall choose
astronomy. I shall fix my equatorial on the column.'
Swithin brightened up.
'And I shall let you have the use of it whenever you choose. In brief, Swithin St.
Cleeve shall be Lady Constantine's Astronomer Royal; and she--and she--'
'Shall be his Queen.' The words came not much the worse for being uttered only
in the tone of one anxious to complete a tardy sentence.
'Well, that's what I have decided to do,' resumed Lady Constantine. 'I will write to
these opticians at once.'
There seemed to be no more for him to do than to thank her for the privilege,
whenever it should be available, which he promptly did, and then made as if to
go. But Lady Constantine detained him with, 'Have you ever seen my library?'
'No; never.'
'You don't say you would like to see it.'
'But I should.'
'It is the third door on the right. You can find your way in, and you can stay there
as long as you like.'
 
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