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Two on a Tower

Chapter 16
After this there only remained to be settled between them the practical details of
the project.
These were that he should leave home in a couple of days, and take lodgings
either in the distant city of Bath or in a convenient suburb of London, till a
sufficient time should have elapsed to satisfy legal requirements; that on a fine
morning at the end of this time she should hie away to the same place, and be
met at the station by St. Cleeve, armed with the marriage license; whence they
should at once proceed to the church fixed upon for the ceremony; returning
home independently in the course of the next two or three days.
While these tactics were under discussion the two-and-thirty winds of heaven
continued, as before, to beat about the tower, though their onsets appeared to be
somewhat lessening in force. Himself now calmed and satisfied, Swithin, as is
the wont of humanity, took serener views of Nature's crushing mechanics
without, and said, 'The wind doesn't seem disposed to put the tragic period to our
hopes and fears that I spoke of in my momentary despair.'
'The disposition of the wind is as vicious as ever,' she answered, looking into his
face with pausing thoughts on, perhaps, other subjects than that discussed. 'It is
your mood of viewing it that has changed. "There is nothing either good or bad,
but thinking makes it so."'
And, as if flatly to stultify Swithin's assumption, a circular hurricane, exceeding in
violence any that had preceded it, seized hold upon Rings-Hill Speer at that
moment with the determination of a conscious agent. The first sensation of a
resulting catastrophe was conveyed to their intelligence by the flapping of the
candle- flame against the lantern-glass; then the wind, which hitherto they had
heard rather than felt, rubbed past them like a fugitive. Swithin beheld around
and above him, in place of the concavity of the dome, the open heaven, with its
racing clouds, remote horizon, and intermittent gleam of stars. The dome that
had covered the tower had been whirled off bodily; and they heard it descend
crashing upon the trees.
Finding himself untouched Swithin stretched out his arms towards Lady
Constantine, whose apparel had been seized by the spinning air, nearly lifting
her off her legs. She, too, was as yet unharmed. Each held the other for a
moment, when, fearing that something further would happen, they took shelter in
the staircase.
'Dearest, what an escape!' he said, still holding her.
'What is the accident?' she asked. 'Has the whole top really gone?'
'The dome has been blown off the roof.'
As soon as it was practicable he relit the extinguished lantern, and they emerged
again upon the leads, where the extent of the disaster became at once apparent.
Saving the absence of the enclosing hemisphere all remained the same. The
dome, being constructed of wood, was light by comparison with the rest of the
structure, and the wheels which allowed it horizontal, or, as Swithin expressed it,
azimuth motion, denied it a firm hold upon the walls; so that it had been lifted off