I think Martin must have felt it too, for all at once he ceased to speak, and I was trembling so much with this new feeling of tenderness that I could not utter a word. So I heard nothing as we walked on but the crackle of our footsteps on the gravel path and the measured boom of the sea which we were leaving behind us—nothing but that and the quick beating in my own breast.
When we came to the garden the frowning face of the old house was in front of us, and it was all in darkness, save for the light in my room which came out on to the balcony. Everything was quiet. The air was breathless. There was not a rustle in the trees.
We took two or three turns on the lawn in front of my windows, saying nothing but feeling terribly, fearfully happy. After a few moments (or they seemed few) a cuckoo clock on my desk struck eleven, and we went up the stone stairway into my boudoir and parted for the night.
Even then we did not speak, but Martin took my hand and lifted my fingers to his lips, and the quivering delight I had been feeling ever since I slipped on the headland rushed through me again.
At the next moment I was in my room. I did not turn on the light. I undressed in the darkness and when my maid came I was in bed. She wanted to tell me about a scene with the housekeeper in the kitchen, but I said:
“I don’t want to talk to-night, Price.”
I did not know what was happening to me. I only knew, for the first time that night, that above everything else I was a woman, and that my renunciation, if it was ever to come to pass, would be a still more tragic thing than I had expected.
My grim battle had begun.
When I awoke in the morning I took myself severely to task. Was this how I was fulfilling the promise I had made to Martin’s mother, or preparing to carry out the counsel of Father Dan?
“I must be more careful,” I told myself. “I must keep a stronger hold of myself.”
The church bells began to ring, and I determined to go to mass. I wanted to go alone and much as I grudged every minute of Martin’s company which I lost, I was almost glad when, on going into the boudoir with my missal in my hand, I found him at a table covered with papers and heard him say:
“Helloa! See these letters and telegrams? Sunday as it is I’ve got to answer them.”
Our church was a little chapel-of-ease on the edge of my husband’s estate, opened, after centuries of neglect, by the bad Lord Raa, in his regenerate days, for the benefit of the people of his own village. It was very sweet to see their homely faces as they reverently bowed and rose, and even to hear their creachy voices when they joined in the singing of the Gloria.
Following the gospel there was a sermon on the words “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The preacher was a young curate, the brother of my husband’s coachman; and it occurred to me that he could know very little of temptation for himself, but the instruction he gave us was according to the doctrine of our Church, as I had received it from the Reverend Mother and the Cardinals who used to hold retreats at the convent.