Two on a Tower
When Lady Constantine awoke the next morning Swithin was nowhere to be
seen. Before she was quite ready for breakfast she heard the key turn in the
door, and felt startled, till she remembered that the comer could hardly be
anybody but he. He brought a basket with provisions, an extra cup-and-saucer,
and so on. In a short space of time the kettle began singing on the stove, and the
morning meal was ready.
The sweet resinous air from the firs blew in upon them as they sat at breakfast;
the birds hopped round the door (which, somewhat riskily, they ventured to keep
open); and at their elbow rose the lank column into an upper realm of sunlight,
which only reached the cabin in fitful darts and flashes through the trees.
'I could be happy here for ever,' said she, clasping his hand. 'I wish I could never
see my great gloomy house again, since I am not rich enough to throw it open,
and live there as I ought to do. Poverty of this sort is not unpleasant at any rate.
What are you thinking of?'
'I am thinking about my outing this morning. On reaching my grandmother's she
was only a little surprised to see me. I was obliged to breakfast there, or appear
to do so, to divert suspicion; and this food is supposed to be wanted for my
dinner and supper. There will of course be no difficulty in my obtaining an ample
supply for any length of time, as I can take what I like from the buttery without
observation. But as I looked in my grandmother's face this morning, and saw her
looking affectionately in mine, and thought how she had never concealed
anything from me, and had always had my welfare at heart, I felt--that I should
like to tell her what we have done.'
'O no,--please not, Swithin!' she exclaimed piteously.
'Very well,' he answered. 'On no consideration will I do so without your consent.'
And no more was said on the matter.
The morning was passed in applying wet rag and other remedies to the purple
line on Viviette's cheek; and in the afternoon they set up the equatorial under the
replaced dome, to have it in order for night observations.
The evening was clear, dry, and remarkably cold by comparison with the daytime
weather. After a frugal supper they replenished the stove with charcoal from the
homestead, which they also burnt during the day,--an idea of Viviette's, that the
smoke from a wood fire might not be seen more frequently than was consistent
with the occasional occupation of the cabin by Swithin, as heretofore.
At eight o'clock she insisted upon his ascending the tower for observations, in
strict pursuance of the idea on which their marriage had been based, namely,
that of restoring regularity to his studies.
The sky had a new and startling beauty that night. A broad, fluctuating,
semicircular arch of vivid white light spanned the northern quarter of the
heavens, reaching from the horizon to the star Eta in the Greater Bear. It was the
Aurora Borealis, just risen up for the winter season out of the freezing seas of the
north, where every autumn vapour was now undergoing rapid congelation.