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Two on a Tower

Chapter 8
Lady Constantine then had the pleasure of beholding a waggon, laden with
packing-cases, moving across the field towards the pillar; and not many days
later Swithin, who had never come to the Great House since the luncheon, met
her in a path which he knew to be one of her promenades.
'The equatorial is fixed, and the man gone,' he said, half in doubt as to his
speech, for her commands to him not to recognize her agency or patronage still
puzzled him. 'I respectfully wish--you could come and see it, Lady Constantine.'
'I would rather not; I cannot.'
'Saturn is lovely; Jupiter is simply sublime; I can see double stars in the Lion and
in the Virgin, where I had seen only a single one before. It is all I required to set
me going!'
'I'll come. But--you need say nothing about my visit. I cannot come to-night, but I
will some time this week. Yet only this once, to try the instrument. Afterwards you
must be content to pursue your studies alone.'
Swithin seemed but little affected at this announcement. 'Hilton and Pimm's man
handed me the bill,' he continued.
'How much is it?'
He told her. 'And the man who has built the hut and dome, and done the other
fixing, has sent in his.' He named this amount also.
'Very well. They shall be settled with. My debts must be paid with my money,
which you shall have at once,--in cash, since a cheque would hardly do. Come to
the house for it this evening. But no, no--you must not come openly; such is the
world. Come to the window--the window that is exactly in a line with the long
snowdrop bed, in the south front--at eight to-night, and I will give you what is
necessary.'
'Certainly, Lady Constantine,' said the young man.
At eight that evening accordingly, Swithin entered like a spectre upon the terrace
to seek out the spot she had designated. The equatorial had so entirely absorbed
his thoughts that he did not trouble himself seriously to conjecture the why and
wherefore of her secrecy. If he casually thought of it, he set it down in a general
way to an intensely generous wish on her part not to lessen his influence among
the poorer inhabitants by making him appear the object of patronage.
While he stood by the long snowdrop bed, which looked up at him like a nether
Milky Way, the French casement of the window opposite softly opened, and a
hand bordered by a glimmer of lace was stretched forth, from which he received
a crisp little parcel,-- bank-notes, apparently. He knew the hand, and held it long
enough to press it to his lips, the only form which had ever occurred to him of
expressing his gratitude to her without the incumbrance of clumsy words, a
vehicle at the best of times but rudely suited to such delicate merchandise. The
hand was hastily withdrawn, as if the treatment had been unexpected. Then
seemingly moved by second thoughts she bent forward and said, 'Is the night
good for observations?'
'Perfect.'
 
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