Man and Wife HTML version

Near It
THE Library at Windygates was the largest and the handsomest room in the house. The
two grand divisions under which Literature is usually arranged in these days occupied the
customary places in it. On the shelves which ran round the walls were the books which
humanity in general respects--and does not read. On the tables distributed over the floor
were the books which humanity in general reads--and does not respect. In the first class,
the works of the wise ancients; and the Histories, Biographies, and Essays of writers of
more modern times--otherwise the Solid Literature, which is universally respected, and
occasionally read. In the second class, the Novels of our own day--otherwise the Light
Literature, which is universally read, and occasionally respected. At Windygates, as
elsewhere, we believed History to be high literature, because it assumed to be true to
Authorities (of which we knew little)--and Fiction to be low literature, because it
attempted to be true to Nature (of which we knew less). At Windygates as elsewhere, we
were always more or less satisfied with ourselves, if we were publicly discovered
consulting our History--and more or less ashamed of ourselves, if we were publicly
discovered devouring our Fiction. An architectural peculiarity in the original arrangement
of the library favored the development of this common and curious form of human
stupidity. While a row of luxurious arm-chairs, in the main thoroughfare of the room,
invited the reader of solid lit erature to reveal himself in the act of cultivating a virtue, a
row of snug little curtained recesses, opening at intervals out of one of the walls, enabled
the reader of light literature to conceal himself in the act of indulging a vice. For the rest,
all the minor accessories of this spacious and tranquil place were as plentiful and as well
chosen as the heart could desire. And solid literature and light literature, and great writers
and small, were all bounteously illuminated alike by a fine broad flow of the light of
heaven, pouring into the room through windows that opened to the floor.
It was the fourth day from the day of Lady Lundie's garden-party, and it wanted an hour
or more of the time at which the luncheon-bell usually rang.
The guests at Windygates were most of them in the garden, enjoying the morning
sunshine, after a prevalent mist and rain for some days past. Two gentlemen (exceptions
to the general rule) were alone in the library. They were the two last gentlemen in the
would who could possibly be supposed to have any legitimate motive for meeting each
other in a place of literary seclusion. One was Arnold Brinkworth, and the other was
Geoffrey Delamayn.
They had arrived together at Windygates that morning. Geoffrey had traveled from
London with his brother by the train of the previous night. Arnold, delayed in getting
away at his own time, from his own property, by ceremonies incidental to his position
which were not to be abridged without giving offense to many worthy people--had caught
the passing train early that morning at the station nearest to him, and had returned to
Lady Lundie's, as he had left Lady Lundie's, in company with his friend.
After a short preliminary interview with Blanche, Arnold had rejoined Geoffrey in the
safe retirement of the library, to say what was still left to be said between them on the
subject of Anne. Having completed his report of events at Craig Fernie, he was now
naturally waiting to hear what Geoffrey had to say on his side. To Arnold's astonishment,
Geoffrey coolly turned away to leave the library without uttering a word.