“Go on,” she answered, bowing her head to her breast so that the long rippling hair almost hid her face.
“It seems a little odd,” Geoffrey said with a short laugh, “that I, with all my imperfections heaped upon me, should presume to preach to you—but you will know best how near or how far I am from the truth. So I want to say something. I have lived for thirty-five years, and seen a good deal and tried to learn from it, and I know this. In the long run, unless we of our own act put away the opportunity, the world gives us our due, which generally is not much. So much for things temporal. If you are fit to rule, in time you will rule; if you do not, then be content and acknowledge your own incapacity. And as for things spiritual, I am sure of this—though of course one does not like to talk much of these matters—if you only seek for them long enough in some shape you will find them, though the shape may not be that which is generally recognised by any particular religion. But to build a wall deliberately between oneself and the unseen, and then complain that the way is barred, is simply childish.”
“And what if one’s wall is built, Mr. Bingham?”
“Most of us have done something in that line at different times,” he answered, “and found a way round it.”
“And if it stretches from horizon to horizon, and is higher than the clouds, what then?”
“Then you must find wings and fly over it.”
“And where can any earthly woman find those spiritual wings?” she asked, and then sank her head still deeper on her breast to cover her confusion. For she remembered that she had heard of wanderers in the dusky groves of human passion, yes, even Maenad wanderers, who had suddenly come face to face with their own soul; and that the cruel paths of earthly love may yet lead the feet which tread them to the ivory gates of heaven.
And remembering these beautiful myths, though she had no experience of love, and knew little of its ways, Beatrice grew suddenly silent. Nor did Geoffrey give her an answer, though he need scarcely have feared to do so.
For were they not discussing a purely abstract question?
LADY HONORIA MAKES ARRANGEMENTS
In another moment somebody entered the room; it was Elizabeth. She had returned from her tithe collecting expedition—with the tithe. The door of the sitting-room was still ajar, and Geoffrey had his back towards it. So it happened that nobody heard Elizabeth’s rather cat-like step, and for some seconds she stood in the doorway without being perceived. She stood quite still, taking in the whole scene at a glance. She noticed that her sister held her head down, so that her hair shadowed her, and guessed that she did so for some reason—probably because she did not wish her face to be seen. Or was it to show off her lovely hair? She noticed also the half shy, half amused, and altogether interested expression upon Geoffrey’s countenance—she could see that in the little gilt-edged looking-glass which hung over the fire-place, nor did she overlook the general air of embarrassment that pervaded them both.