And so the day wore away, and the polo match—very badly played—was over, and the votaries of lawn-tennis were worn out with running up and down, and the flowers and the fruits in the show-tent began to look limp and dusty. The farmers and those people of small importance who had only been invited “from two to five,” began now to take their departure, and their carriage wheels were to be heard driving away in rapid succession from the front door. Then the hundred or so of the “best county people,” who were remaining later for the dancing, began to think of leaving the lawns before the dew fell. There was a general move towards the house, and even the band “limbered up,” and began to transfer itself from the garden into the hall, where its labours were to begin afresh.
Then it was that Vera crept forth out of her sheltered corner, and, unseen and unnoticed save by one watchful pair of eyes, wended her way through the shrubbery walks in the direction of the Bath.
A jolly place—in times of old,
But something ails it now:
The spot is cursed!
Calm and still, like the magic mirror of the legend, Shadonake Bath lay amongst its everlasting shadows.
The great belt of fir-trees beyond it, the sheltering evergreens on the nearer side, the tiers of grey, moss-grown steps that encompassed it about, all found their image again upon its smooth and untroubled surface. There was a golden light from the setting sun to the west, and the pale mist of a shadowy crescent moon had risen in the east.
It was all quiet here—faint echoes of distant voices and far-away laughter came up in little gusts from the house; but there was no trace of the festivities down by the desolate water, nothing but the dark fir-trees above it, and the great white heads of the water-lilies that lay like jewels upon its silent bosom.
Vera sat down upon the steps, and rested her chin in her hands, and waited. The house and the gardens behind her were shut out by the thick screen of laurels and rhododendrons. Before her, on the other side, were the fir-trees, with their red, bronzed trunks, and the soft, dark brown carpet that lay at their feet; there was not even a squirrel stirring among their branches, nor a bird that fluttered beneath their shadows.
Vera waited. She was not impatient nor anxious. She had nothing to say to Maurice when he came—she did not mean to keep him, not even for five minutes, by her side; she did not want to run any further risks with him—it was better not—better that she should never again be alone with him. She only meant just to give him that wretched little brown paper parcel that weighed upon her conscience with the sense of an unfulfilled vow, and then to go back with him to the house at once. They could have nothing more to say to each other.