Two on a Tower
In her days of prosperity Lady Constantine had often gone to the city of Bath,
either frivolously, for shopping purposes, or musico- religiously, to attend choir
festivals in the abbey; so there was nothing surprising in her reverting to an old
practice. That the journey might appear to be of a somewhat similar nature she
took with her the servant who had been accustomed to accompany her on former
occasions, though the woman, having now left her service, and settled in the
village as the wife of Anthony Green, with a young child on her hands, could with
some difficulty leave home. Lady Constantine overcame the anxious mother's
scruples by providing that young Green should be well cared for; and knowing
that she could count upon this woman's fidelity, if upon anybody's, in case of an
accident (for it was chiefly Lady Constantine's exertions that had made an honest
wife of Mrs. Green), she departed for a fortnight's absence.
The next day found mistress and maid settled in lodgings in an old plum-coloured
brick street, which a hundred years ago could boast of rank and fashion among
its residents, though now the broad fan-light over each broad door admitted the
sun to the halls of a lodging- house keeper only. The lamp-posts were still those
that had done duty with oil lights; and rheumatic old coachmen and postilions,
that once had driven and ridden gloriously from London to Land's End,
ornamented with their bent persons and bow legs the pavement in front of the
chief inn, in the sorry hope of earning sixpence to keep body and soul together.
'We are kept well informed on the time o' day, my lady,' said Mrs. Green, as she
pulled down the blinds in Lady Constantine's room on the evening of their arrival.
'There's a church exactly at the back of us, and I hear every hour strike.'
Lady Constantine said she had noticed that there was a church quite near.
'Well, it is better to have that at the back than other folks' winders. And if your
ladyship wants to go there it won't be far to walk.'
'That's what occurred to me,' said Lady Constantine, 'IF I should want to go.'
During the ensuing days she felt to the utmost the tediousness of waiting merely
that time might pass. Not a soul knew her there, and she knew not a soul, a
circumstance which, while it added to her sense of secrecy, intensified her
solitude. Occasionally she went to a shop, with Green as her companion. Though
there were purchases to be made, they were by no means of a pressing nature,
and but poorly filled up the vacancies of those strange, speculative days,-- days
surrounded by a shade of fear, yet poetized by sweet expectation.
On the thirteenth day she told Green that she was going to take a walk, and
leaving the house she passed by the obscurest streets to the Abbey. After
wandering about beneath the aisles till her courage was screwed to its highest,
she went out at the other side, and, looking timidly round to see if anybody
followed, walked on till she came to a certain door, which she reached just at the
moment when her heart began to sink to its very lowest, rendering all the
screwing up in vain.
Whether it was because the month was October, or from any other reason, the
deserted aspect of the quarter in general sat especially on this building.