Two on a Tower
Why had Lady Constantine stopped and turned?
A misgiving had taken sudden possession of her. Her true sentiment towards St.
Cleeve was too recognizable by herself to be tolerated.
That she had a legitimate interest in him as a young astronomer was true; that
her sympathy on account of his severe illness had been natural and
commendable was also true. But the superfluous feeling was what filled her with
Superfluities have been defined as things you cannot do without, and this
particular emotion, that came not within her rightful measure, was in danger of
becoming just such a superfluity with her. In short, she felt there and then that to
see St. Cleeve again would be an impropriety; and by a violent effort she
retreated from his precincts, as he had observed.
She resolved to ennoble her conduct from that moment of her life onwards. She
would exercise kind patronage towards Swithin without once indulging herself
with his company. Inexpressibly dear to her deserted heart he was becoming, but
for the future he should at least be hidden from her eyes. To speak plainly, it was
growing a serious question whether, if he were not hidden from her eyes, she
would not soon be plunging across the ragged boundary which divides the
permissible from the forbidden.
By the time that she had drawn near home the sun was going down. The heavy,
many-chevroned church, now subdued by violet shadow except where its upper
courses caught the western stroke of flame- colour, stood close to her grounds,
as in many other parishes, though the village of which it formerly was the nucleus
had become quite depopulated: its cottages had been demolished to enlarge the
park, leaving the old building to stand there alone, like a standard without an
It was Friday night, and she heard the organist practising voluntaries within. The
hour, the notes, the even-song of the birds, and her own previous emotions,
combined to influence her devotionally. She entered, turning to the right and
passing under the chancel arch, where she sat down and viewed the whole
empty length, east and west. The semi-Norman arches of the nave, with their
multitudinous notchings, were still visible by the light from the tower window, but
the lower portion of the building was in obscurity, except where the feeble
glimmer from the candle of the organist spread a glow-worm radiance around.
The player, who was Miss Tabitha Lark, continued without intermission to
produce her wandering sounds, unconscious of any one's presence except that
of the youthful blower at her side.
The rays from the organist's candle illuminated but one small fragment of the
chancel outside the precincts of the instrument, and that was the portion of the
eastern wall whereon the ten commandments were inscribed. The gilt letters
shone sternly into Lady Constantine's eyes; and she, being as impressionable as
a turtle-dove, watched a certain one of those commandments on the second
table, till its thunder broke her spirit with blank contrition.