And suddenly,—it was in Kensington Gardens that out of the heart of a long and vague reverie there came a flash—an illumination—which wholly changed the life and future of Doris Meadows. After the thought in which it took shape had seized upon her, she sat for some time motionless; then rising to her feet, tottering a little, like one in bewilderment, she turned northwards, and made her way hurriedly towards Lancaster Gate. In a house there, lived a lady, a widowed lady, who was Doris’s godmother, and to whom Doris—who had lost her own mother in her childhood—had turned for counsel before now. How long it was since she had seen “Cousin Julia"!—nearly two months. And here she was, hastening to her, and not able to bear the thought that in all human probability Cousin Julia was not in town.
But, by good luck, Doris found her godmother, perching in London between a Devonshire visit and a Scotch one. They talked long, and Doris walked slowly home across the park. A glory of spreading sun lay over the grassy glades; the Serpentine held reflections of a sky barred with rose; London, transfigured, seemed a city of pearl and fire. And in Doris’s heart there was a glory like that of the evening,—and, like the burning sky, bearing with it a promise of fair days to come. The glory and the promise stole through all her thoughts, softening and transmuting everything.
“When he grows up—if he were to marry such a woman—and I didn’t know—if all his life—and mine—were spoilt—and nobody said a word!”
Her eyes filled with tears. She seemed to be walking with Arthur through a world of beauty, hand in hand.
How many hours to Pitlochry? She ran into the Kensington house, asking for railway guides, and peremptorily telling Jane to get down the small suitcase from the box-room at once.
“‘Barbarians, Philistines, Populace!’”
The young golden-haired man of letters who was lounging on the grass beside Arthur Meadows repeated the words to himself in an absent voice, turning over the pages meanwhile of a book lying before him, as though in search of a passage he had noticed and lost. He presently found it again, and turned laughing towards Meadows, who was trifling with a French novel.
“Do you remember this passage in Culture and Anarchy—’I often, therefore, when I want to distinguish clearly the aristocratic class from the Philistines proper, or middle class, name the former, in my own mind, the Barbarians. And when I go through the country, and see this or that beautiful and imposing seat of theirs crowning the landscape, “There,” I say to myself, “is a great fortified post of the Barbarians!"’”
The youth pointed smiling to the fine Scotch house seen sideways on the other side of the lawn. Its turreted and battlemented front rose high above the low and spreading buildings which made the bulk of the house, so that it was a feudal castle—by no means, however, so old as it looked—on a front view, and a large and roomy villa from the rear. Meadows, looking at it, appreciated the fitness of the quotation, and laughed in response.