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Two on a Tower

Chapter 9
Lady Constantine, if narrowly observed at this time, would have seemed to be
deeply troubled in conscience, and particularly after the interview above
described. Ash Wednesday occurred in the calendar a few days later, and she
went to morning service with a look of genuine contrition on her emotional and
yearning countenance.
Besides herself the congregation consisted only of the parson, clerk, school-
children, and three old people living on alms, who sat under the reading-desk;
and thus, when Mr. Torkingham blazed forth the denunciatory sentences of the
Commination, nearly the whole force of them seemed to descend upon her own
shoulders. Looking across the empty pews she saw through the one or two clear
panes of the window opposite a youthful figure in the churchyard, and the very
feeling against which she had tried to pray returned again irresistibly.
When she came out and had crossed into the private walk, Swithin came forward
to speak to her. This was a most unusual circumstance, and argued a matter of
importance.
'I have made an amazing discovery in connexion with the variable stars,' he
exclaimed. 'It will excite the whole astronomical world, and the world outside but
little less. I had long suspected the true secret of their variability; but it was by the
merest chance on earth that I hit upon a proof of my guess. Your equatorial has
done it, my good, kind Lady Constantine, and our fame is established for ever!'
He sprang into the air, and waved his hat in his triumph.
'Oh, I am so glad--so rejoiced!' she cried. 'What is it? But don't stop to tell me.
Publish it at once in some paper; nail your name to it, or somebody will seize the
idea and appropriate it,-- forestall you in some way. It will be Adams and
Leverrier over again.'
'If I may walk with you I will explain the nature of the discovery. It accounts for the
occasional green tint of Castor, and every difficulty. I said I would be the
Copernicus of the stellar system, and I have begun to be. Yet who knows?'
'Now don't be so up and down! I shall not understand your explanation, and I
would rather not know it. I shall reveal it if it is very grand. Women, you know, are
not safe depositaries of such valuable secrets. You may walk with me a little way,
with great pleasure. Then go and write your account, so as to insure your
ownership of the discovery. . . . But how you have watched!' she cried, in a
sudden accession of anxiety, as she turned to look more closely at him. 'The
orbits of your eyes are leaden, and your eyelids are red and heavy. Don't do it--
pray don't. You will be ill, and break down.'
'I have, it is true, been up a little late this last week,' he said cheerfully. 'In fact, I
couldn't tear myself away from the equatorial; it is such a wonderful possession
that it keeps me there till daylight. But what does that matter, now I have made
the discovery?'
'Ah, it DOES matter! Now, promise me--I insist--that you will not commit such
imprudences again; for what should I do if my Astronomer Royal were to die?'
She laughed, but far too apprehensively to be effective as a display of levity.
 
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