Two on a Tower
The summer passed away, and autumn, with its infinite suite of tints, came
creeping on. Darker grew the evenings, tearfuller the moonlights, and heavier the
dews. Meanwhile the comet had waxed to its largest dimensions,--so large that
not only the nucleus but a portion of the tail had been visible in broad day. It was
now on the wane, though every night the equatorial still afforded an opportunity
of observing the singular object which would soon disappear altogether from the
heavens for perhaps thousands of years.
But the astronomer of the Rings-Hill Speer was no longer a match for his
celestial materials. Scientifically he had become but a dim vapour of himself; the
lover had come into him like an armed man, and cast out the student, and his
intellectual situation was growing a life-and-death matter.
The resolve of the pair had been so far kept: they had not seen each other in
private for three months. But on one day in October he ventured to write a note to
'I can do nothing! I have ceased to study, ceased to observe. The equatorial is
useless to me. This affection I have for you absorbs my life, and outweighs my
intentions. The power to labour in this grandest of fields has left me. I struggle
against the weakness till I think of the cause, and then I bless her. But the very
desperation of my circumstances has suggested a remedy; and this I would
inform you of at once.
'Can you come to me, since I must not come to you? I will wait to- morrow night
at the edge of the plantation by which you would enter to the column. I will not
detain you; my plan can be told in ten words.'
The night after posting this missive to her he waited at the spot mentioned.
It was a melancholy evening for coming abroad. A blusterous wind had risen
during the day, and still continued to increase. Yet he stood watchful in the
darkness, and was ultimately rewarded by discerning a shady muffled shape that
embodied itself from the field, accompanied by the scratching of silk over stubble.
There was no longer any disguise as to the nature of their meeting. It was a
lover's assignation, pure and simple; and boldly realizing it as such he clasped
her in his arms.
'I cannot bear this any longer!' he exclaimed. 'Three months since I saw you
alone! Only a glimpse of you in church, or a bow from the distance, in all that
time! What a fearful struggle this keeping apart has been!'
'Yet I would have had strength to persist, since it seemed best,' she murmured
when she could speak, 'had not your words on your condition so alarmed and
saddened me. This inability of yours to work, or study, or observe,--it is terrible!
So terrible a sting is it to my conscience that your hint about a remedy has
brought me instantly.'
'Yet I don't altogether mind it, since it is you, my dear, who have displaced the
work; and yet the loss of time nearly distracts me, when I have neither the power
to work nor the delight of your company.'
'But your remedy! O, I cannot help guessing it! Yes; you are going away!'