“So your protegee lives with those cameos of the Victorian era we dined with, and never sees the outside world?”
“Never—from one year’s end to another.”
“What a fate!” and John Derringham stretched out his arms. “Ye gods, what a fate!”
And again Cheiron smiled, raising his bushy left brow.
Halcyone, meanwhile, was walking with firm certain steps across the park, where the dusk had fallen. The turbulent Boreas blew in her face, and she stopped and took off her soft cap and unplaited her hair so that it flew out in a cloud as the wind rushed through it. This sensation was a great pleasure to her, and when she came to a rising ground, a kind of knoll where the view of the country was vast and superb, she paused again and took in great deep breaths. She was drawing all the forces of the air into her being and quivered presently with the joy of it.
She could see as only those who are accustomed to the dark can. She was aware of all the outlines of golden bracken at her feet and the head of a buck peeping from the copse near. The sky was a passionate, tempestuous mass of angry clouds scudding over the deep blue, where an evening star could be seen peeping out.
“Bring me your force and strength, that I may grow noble and beautiful, dear wind,” she said aloud. “I want to be near him when he comes again,” and then she ran and jumped the uneven places, while she hummed a strange song.
And Jeb Hart and Joseph Gubbs, the poachers, saw her, as she passed within a yard of where they lay setting their snares, and Gubbs, who was a good Catholic from Upminster, crossed himself as he muttered in his friend’s ear:
“We’ll get no swag to-night, Jeb. When she passes, blest if she don’t warn the beasts.”
When Halcyone was nearly nineteen and had grown into a rare and radiant maiden, the like of whom it would be difficult to find, an event happened which was of the greatest excitement and importance to the neighborhood. Wendover, which had been shut up for twenty years, was reported to have been taken for a term by a very rich widow—or divorcee—from America it was believed, and it was going to be sumptuously done up and would be filled with guests. Mr. Miller took pains to find out every detail from the Long Man at Applewood, and so was full of information at his monthly repast with the old ladies. Mrs. Vincent Cricklander was the new tenant’s name. The Long Man had himself taken her over the place when she first came down to look at it, and his report was that she was the most beautiful lady he had ever seen, and with an eye to business that could not be beaten. He held her in vast respect.
Then Mr. Miller coughed; he had now come to the point of his discourse which made him nervous.
For he had learned beyond the possibility of any doubt that Mrs. Cricklander was, alas! not a lonely widow but had been divorced—only a year or two ago. She had divorced her husband—not he her—he hastened to add, and then coughed again and got very red.