Twilight (Frankau)/Chapter X
She was surprised at what had happened to her, thought a great deal about it, magnifying or minimising it according to her mood. But in a way the incident drew her more definitely toward Gabriel Stanton. She began to admit she was in love with him, to do as he had bidden her, "let herself go." In imagination at least. Had she been a psychological instead of an epigrammatic novelist, she would have understood herself better. To me, writing her story at this headlong pace, it was nevertheless all quite clear. I had not to linger to find out why she did this or that, what spirit moved her. I knew all the time, for although none of my own novels ever had the success of "The Dangerous Age" I knew more about what the author wrote there than he did himself, much more. The Dangerous Age comes to a woman at all periods. With Margaret Capel it was seven years after her marriage and over six from the time when she had left her husband. She was impulsive, and for all her introspective egotism, most pitifully ignorant of herself and her emotional capacity. Fortunately Gabriel Stanton was almost as ignorant as she. But, at least after that Sunday evening, there was no more talk of friendship between them. There was coquetting on her side and some obtuseness on his. Rare flashes of understanding as well, and on her part deepening feeling under a light and varying surface.
She was rarely twice alike, often she merely acted, thinking of herself as a strange character in a drama. She was genuinely uncertain of herself. Her love flamed wild sometimes. Then she would pull herself up and remember that something like this she had felt once before, and it had proved a will o' the wisp over a bog. She wanted to walk warily.
"Supposing I am wrong again this time?" she asked him once with wide eyes.
"You are not. This is real. Trust me, trust yourself." She liked to nestle in the shelter of his arm, to feel his lips on her hair, to torment and adore him. The week-ends seemed very short; the week-days long. Week-days during which she was restless and excitable, and Peter Kennedy and his bag of tricks, medical tricks, often in request. She was very capricious with Peter, calling him ignorant, and a country yokel. As a companion he compared very badly with Gabriel. As an emotional machine he was easier to play upon. She spared him nothing, he was her whipping-boy. Watching him one noticed that he grew quieter, improved in many ways as she secured more and more mastery over him. When there were scenes now they were of her and not of his making. He was wax in her hands, plastic to her moulding. Sometimes she was sorry for him and a little ashamed of herself. Then she gave him a music lesson or lectured him gravely on his shortcomings. But from first to last he was nothing to her but a stop-gap. His devotion had the smallest of reward.
The weeks went by. Gabriel Stanton coming and going, staying always at the local hotel. Ever more secure in his position with her, but never taking advantage of it.
"He is naturally of a cold nature," she argued. And once her confidant was Peter Kennedy and she compared the two of them. This was in early days, before her treatment of Peter had subdued him.
"What's he afraid of?" Peter asked brusquely.
"Until the decree has been made absolute I am not free."
"So what he is afraid of is the King's Proctor?"
"His precious respectability, the great house of Stanton."
"You take it all wrong, you don't understand. How should you?"
"Don't I? I wish I'd half his chances."
"You are really not in the same category of men. It is banal I have never fully realised the value of a banal phrase before, but you are 'not fit to wipe the mud off his shoes.'"
"Because I am a country doctor."
"Because you are—Peter Kennedy."
She knew then how comparatively thick-skinned he was; that if he had some sense or senses in excelsis, in others he was lacking, altogether lacking and unconscious. It is not paradoxical but plain that the more she saw of Gabriel Stanton the less heed she took of Peter Kennedy's freedom of speech and ways. The two men were as apart as the poles, that they both adored her proved nothing but her undoubted charm. She was not quite looking forward, like Gabriel Stanton, through the "decree absolute" to marriage. She lived in the immediate present; in the Saturdays to Mondays when she tortured Gabriel Stanton and in a way was tortured by him. For she had never met so fine a brain, nor honour and simplicity so clean and clear, and she was upborne by and with him. And the Tuesdays to Fridays she had attacks or crises of the nerves and Kennedy alternately doctored and clumsily courted her.
There came a time when she wrote and asked Gabriel to bring his sister next time he came, and that both of them should stay in the house with her, at Carbies. It was clear, if it had not been put into actual words, that they would marry as soon as she was free, and she thought it would please him that she should recognise the position.
"I want to know her. Tell her I am a friend of yours who is interested in Christian Science, then she won't think it strange that I should invite her here." She was not frank enough to say "since she is to be my sister-in-law."
Gabriel, nevertheless, was translated when the letter came, and answered it rapturously. The invitation to his sister seemed to admit his footing, to make the future more definite and domestic.
But if you want me to stay away I will stay away. Remember it is your wishes not mine that count. I tired you, perhaps? Did I tire you? God bless you!
I can never tell you half that is in my heart. You are an angel of goodness, and I am on my knees before you all the time. I will tell Anne as little as possible until you give me permission, yet I am sure she must guess the rest. My voice alters when I speak of you, although I try to keep it even and calm. I went to her when I got your letter. "A friend of mine wants to know you." I began as absurdly as that. She looked at me in surprise, and I went on hurriedly, "She wants you to go down with me to her house in Pineland at the end of the week. …"
"You have been there before?" she asked suspiciously, sharply. "Is that where you have been each week lately?"
"Yes," I answered, priding myself that I did not go on to tell her each week I entered Paradise, lingered there a little while. She began to question, probe me. Were you old, young, beautiful; the questions poured forth. Somehow or other, in the end these questions froze and silenced me. I could not tell her, you were you! She would not have understood. Nor was I able to satisfy her completely on any point. I could not describe you, felt myself stammering like a schoolboy over the colour of your hair, your eyes. How could I say to her "This sweet lady who invites you to make her acquaintance is just perfection, no more nor less; all compound of fire and dew, made composite and credible with genius"? As for giving a description of you, it would need a poet and a painter working together, and in the end they would give up the task in despair. I did not tell Anne this.
She is now reviewing her wardrobe. And I … I am reviewing nothing … past definite thought. Do you know that when I left you on Sunday I feared that I had vexed or disappointed you again? You seemed to me a little cold—constrained. Monday and Tuesday I have examined and cross-examined myself—suffered. My whole life is yours—but if I fail to please you! I was in a hotel in the country once, when a man was brought in from the football field, very badly hurt. His eyes were shut, his face agonised; he moaned, for all his fortitude. There was a doctor in the crowd that accompanied him, who gave what seemed to me a strange order: "Put him in a hot bath, just as he is, don't delay a moment; don't wait to undress him." My own bath was just prepared and I proffered it. They lowered him in. He was a fine big fellow, but suffering beyond self-restraint. Within a minute of the water reaching him, clothes on and everything, he left off moaning. His face grew calm. "My God! I am in heaven!" he exclaimed.
The relief must have been exquisite. I thought of the incident when your letter came, when I had submerged myself in it. I had forgotten it for years, but remembered it then. I too had passed in one moment from exquisite agony to a most wonderful calm. Dear love, how can I thank you! I am not going to try. Anne and I will come by the train arriving at Pineland at 4.52. I will not ask your kindness for her; I see you diffusing it. She will be grateful, and the form her gratitude will take will be the endeavour to convert you to Christian Science. My sweet darling, you will listen gravely, patiently. And I shall know it will be for me. I have done nothing to deserve you, am nothing, only your worshipper. Some day perhaps you will let me do something for you. Dear heart, I love you, love you, love you, however I write."
Friday, Margaret decided it was better that she should entertain her guests alone. She had to learn the idiosyncrasies of this poor sister of her lover's, to acclimatise herself to a new atmosphere between herself and Gabriel. She invited Peter Kennedy to dine with them on Saturday, but bade him not to speak lightly of Christian Science.
"What's the game?" he asked her.
"I think it is probably some form of mesmerism; I don't quite know. Anyway Mr. Stanton's sister is an invalid and thinks Christian Science has relieved her. You are not to laugh at or argue with her."
"I am to dine here and talk to her, I suppose, whilst you and that fellow ogle and make love to each other." She turned a cold shoulder to him.
"I withdraw my invitation, you need not come at all."
"Of course I shall come. And what is the name of the thing? Christian Science? I'll get it up. You know I'd do anything on earth you asked me, though you treat me like a dog."
"At least you snatch an occasional bone," she smiled as he mumbled her hand.
Margaret sent for Mary Baker Eddy's "Science and Health; with a Key to the Scriptures," and spent the emptiest two hours she could remember in trying to master the viewpoint of the book, the essential dogma. Failing completely she flung it to Peter Kennedy, who read aloud to her sentence after sentence as illuminative as these:
"'Destructive electricity is not the offspring of infinite good.' Who the devil said it was? "
"Hush, go on. There must be something more in it than that." He turned to the title-page, "'Printed and published at Earlswood'? No, my mistake—at Boston. 'Christian Science rationally explains that all other pathological methods are the fruits of human faith in matter, in the working, not of spirit, but of the fleshly mind, which must yield to Science.' Don't knit your brows. What's the good of swotting at it? Let's say Abracadabra to her and see what happens."
"What an indolent man you are. Is that the way you worked at your examination?"
"I suppose that was the height of your ambition?"
"You don't give a man much encouragement to be ambitious."
"But this was before I knew you."
"Don't you believe it. I never lived at all before you knew me."
"I'm getting on for thirty."
"You can't expect me to remember it whilst you behave as if you were seventeen. Take the book up again, let us give it an honest trial."
He read on obediently, and she listened with a real desire for instruction. Then all at once she put her fingers in her ears and called a halt.
"That will do. Ring for tea, I can't listen to any more …"
He went on nevertheless: "'Mind is not the author of Matter.' I say, this is jolly good. You can read it the other way too. 'Matter is not the author of mind. There is no matter … put matter under the foot of mind.' Put Mrs. Eddy under the foot of a militant suffragette. Oh! I say … listen to this …"
"No, I won't, not to another word. Poor Gabriel …" He threw the book away.
"Always that damned fellow!" he said.
When Friday came and the house had been swept and garnished Margaret drove to the station to receive her guests. The room prepared for Anne was on the same corridor as her own, facing south, and with a balcony. Margaret herself had seen to all the little details for her comfort. A big sofa and easy-chair, pen and ink and paper, the latest novel: flowers on the mantelpiece and dressing-table, a filled biscuit box, and small spirit stand. Then, more slowly, she had gone into the little suite prepared for Gabriel, bedroom and bathroom, no balcony, but a wide window. She only stayed a moment, she did not give a thought to his little comforts. She was out of the room again quickly.
She arrived late at the station, and Gabriel was already on the platform; he never had the same happy certainty as the first time, nor knew how she would greet him. The first impression she had of Anne was of a little old woman, bent-backed, fussing about the luggage, about some bag after which she enquired repeatedly and excitedly, of whose safety she could not be assured until Gabriel produced it to her from among the others already on the platform.
"Shall we go on and leave him to follow with the luggage?" Margaret asked.
"Oh, no, no, I couldn't think of moving until it is found. So tiresome …"
"I am sure you are tired after your journey."
"I don't know what it is to be tired since I have taken up Christian Science. You know we are never tired unless we think we are," Anne said, when they were in the carriage, bowling along the good road toward the reddening glow of the sunset. Margaret and Gabriel, sitting opposite, but not facing each other—embarrassed, shy with the memory of their last parting,—were glad of this intervening person who chattered of her non-fatigue, the essential bag, and the number of things she had had to see to before she left home. All the way from Pineland station to the crunching gravel path at Carbies Anne talked and they made a feint of listening to her. The feeling between them was a great height. They were almost glad of her presence, of her fretting small talk. Margaret said afterwards she felt damp and deluged with it, properly subdued. "I felt as if I had come all out of curl," she told him. No wonder you speak so little, are reserved."
"I am not reserved with you," he answered.
"I think sometimes that you are."
"There is not a corner or cranny of my mind I should not wish you to explore if it interested you," he replied passionately.
All that evening Anne's volubility never failed. She was of the type of woman, domestic and frequent, who can talk for hours without succeeding in saying anything. Most of it seemed simultaneous! Anne Stanton, who was ten years older than Gabriel and had an idea that she "managed" him, prided herself also on her good social quality and capacity for carrying off a situation. She thought of this invitation and introduction to the young lady with whom her brother had evidently fallen in love as "a situation" and she felt herself of immense importance in it. Gabriel must have kept his secret better than he knew. She believed that he was seeking her opinion of his choice, that the decision, if there was to be a decision, rested with her. One must do her the justice to admit that she did not give a thought to any possible alteration in her own position. She had always lived with Gabriel, she knew he would not cast her off. Conscious of her adaptability she had already said to him on the way down:
"I could live with anybody, any nice person, and, of course, since I have been so well everything is even easier. I do hope I shall like her. …"
She did like her, very much, Margaret saw to that, behaving exquisitely under the stimulus of Gabriel's worshipping eyes; listening as if she were absorbedly interested in a description of the particular Healer who had Anne's case in hand. "At first you see I was quite strange to it, I didn't understand completely. Mr. Roope is a little deaf, but he says he hears as much as he wants to … so beautifully content and devout."
"Has Mrs. Roope any defect?" Margaret got a word or two in edgeways before the end of the evening, her sense of humour helping her.
"She has a sort of hysterical affection. She goes 'Bupp, bupp,' like a turkey-cock and swells at the throat. At least that is what I thought, but I am very backward at present. Some one asked her the cause once, when I was there, and she said she had no such habit, the mistake was ours. It is all very bewildering."
"Are there any other members of the family?"
"Her dear mother! Such a nice creature, and quite a believer; she has gall-stones."
"Not really, you know, they pass with prayer. She looks ill, very ill sometimes, but of course that is another of my mistakes. I am having absent treatment now."
"They know where you are?" Gabriel asked, perhaps a little anxiously.
"Oh! dear, yes. I am never out of touch with them."
After she had retired for the night, for notwithstanding her immunity from fatigue and pain, she retired early, explaining that she wanted to put her things in order, Gabriel lingered to tell Margaret again what an angel she was, and of his gratitude to her for the way she was receiving and making much of his sister.
"I like doing it, she interests me. I suppose she really believes in it all."
"I think so. You see her illness is partly nervous, partly her spine, but still to a certain extent, nervous. She is undoubtedly better since she had this hobby. The only thing that worries me is this family of whom she speaks, these Roopes. Of course they will get everything she has out of her, every penny. If it only stops at that …"
"You have seen them?"
"Not yet. I hear the man is an emaciated idler, not over-clean, his wife has evidently a bad form of St. Vitus's dance. The woman leads them all, the old mother, all of them. I expect they live upon what she makes. I've heard a story or two … I had not realized about this absent treatment, that Anne tells them where she goes. You don't mind?"
"Why should I mind?"
"She may have told them I come here …"
"Oh! that! I had forgotten."
It was true, she had forgotten that she must walk circumspectly. She had spoken of and forgotten it. Now she remembered, because he reminded her; reddened and wished she had not invited Anne. Anne, with her undesirable acquaintances and meandering talk, who would keep her and Gabriel company on their walks and drives for the next two days.
But Providence, or a broken chain in the sequence of the Roope Christian Science treatment, came to her aid. On Saturday Anne was prostrated with headache.
"She has never been able to bear a railway journey."
"Does she explain?"
"I went in to see her. 'If only I had faith enough,' she moaned, and asked me to send Mrs. Roope a telegram. I persuaded her to five grains of aspirin, but I could see she felt very guilty about it. She will sleep until the afternoon."
"We can leave her?"
"Oh, yes ! I doubt if she will be well awake by dinner, certainly not before."
"Let us get away from here, from Carbies and Pineland …"
"Right to the other side of the island. We could lunch at Ryde. I'll get a car."
Nothing suited either of them so well today as a long silent drive. The car went too fast for them to talk. Retrospect or the comparison of notes was practically impossible. They sat side by side, smiling rarely, one at the other as the spring burst into life around them. The tall hedges were full of may blossom, with here and there a flowering currant, the trees wore their coronal of young green leaves, great clumps of primroses succeeded the yellow gorse of which they had tired, fields were already green with the autumn-sown corn, there was nothing to remind them of Carbies. For a long time the sea was out of sight. Never had they been happier together, for all they spoke so little.
At Ryde he played the host to her, and she sat on the verandah whilst he went in to give his orders. A few ships were aride in the bay, but the scene was very different from what she had ever seen it before, in Regatta time, when it was gay with bunting and familiar faces. Today they had it to themselves, the hotel she only knew as overcrowded, and the view of the town, so strangely quiet. And excellent was the luncheon served to them. A lobster mayonnaise and a fillet steak, a pie of early gooseberries, which nevertheless Margaret declared were bottled. They spoke of other meals they had had together, of one in the British Museum in particular. On this occasion it pleased her to declare that boiled cod, not crimped, but flabby and served with luke-warm egg sauce, was the most ambrosial food she knew.
"I don't know when I enjoyed a meal so much," she said reflectively.
"You wrote and reproached me for it." His eyes caressed and forgave her for it.
"Impossible!" "You did indeed. I can produce your plaint in your own handwriting."
"You don't mean to say you keep my letters!"
"I would rather part with my Elzevirs."
This was the only time they approached sentiment, approached and sheered off. There was something between them, in wait for them, at which at that moment neither wished to look.
The sun sparkled on the waters, a boatload of smart young naval officers put off from a strange yacht in the bay. Gabriel and Margaret wished that their landing at the pier should synchronise with their own departure. Nothing was to break the unusualness of their solitude in this whilom crowded place. He showed his tenderness in the way he cloaked her, tucked the rugs about her, not in any spoken word. She felt it subtly about her, and glowed in it, most amazingly content.
When they got back to Carbies, after having satisfied herself that her guest had recovered and would join them at dinner, she astonished her maid by demanding an evening toilette. She wore a gown of grey and silver brocade, very stiff and Elizabethan, a chain of uncut cabochon emeralds hung round her neck, and a stomacher of the same decorated her corsage. The mauve osprey upstanding in her hair was clasped by a similar encrusted jewel. She carried herself regally. Had she not come into her woman's Kingdom? Tonight she meant that he should see what he had won.
It was a strange evening, nevertheless, and they were a strangely assorted quartette. There was a little glow of colour in Margaret's cheeks, such as Peter Kennedy had never seen there before, her eyes shone like stars, and she wore this regal toilette. Peter was introduced to Anne. Anne, yellowish and subdued after the migraine, dressed in brown taffeta, opening at the wizened throat to display a locket of seed pearls on a gold chain; her brown toupée had slipped a little and discovered a few grey hairs, her hands, covered with inexpensive rings, showed claw-like and tremulous. Margaret's unringed hands, so pale and small, were like Japanese flowers. Peter had to take in Anne. Gabriel gave his arm to Margaret. The poverty of the dining-room furniture was out of the circle of the white spread table, where the suspended lamp shone on fine silver and glass. Flowers came constantly to Carbies from London. Tonight red roses scented the room; hothouse roses, blooming before their time, on long thornless stems. Margaret drew a vase toward her, exclaimed at the wealth of perfume.
"I only hope they won't make your headache worse."
Anne tried to insist she had no headache. Peter advised a glass of champagne. She began to tell him something of her new-found panacea for all ills, but ceased upon finding he was what she called a "medical man," one of the enemies of their creed. Before the dinner had passed the soup stage he hardly made a pretence of listening to her. Both men were absorbed in this regal Margaret. All her graciousness was for Gabriel, but she found occasion now and again for a smile and a word for Peter. Poor Peter! guest at this high feast where there was no food for him. But he made the most of the material provender, and proved fortunately to be an excellent trencherman. Otherwise Margaret's good cook had exerted herself in vain. For none of them had appetite but Peter; Margaret because she talked too much, and Gabriel because he could do nothing but listen; Anne because she was feeling the after-effects, and regretting she had yielded to the temptation of the aspirin.
The men sat together but a short time after the ladies left them. They had one subject in common of which neither wished to speak. Gabriel smoked only a cigarette, Peter praised the port, which happened to be exceptionally bad; the weather was a topic that drew blank. Fortunately they struck upon Pineland and its health-giving qualities, upon which both were enthusiastic. Peter Kennedy was in Gabriel's secret, but Gabriel had no intuition of his.
"Mrs. Capel seems to have derived great benefit from her stay. Probably from your treatment also," he said courteously. His thoughts were so full of her; how could he speak of anything else?
" I can't do much for her," Peter said gloomily. He had had the greater part of a bottle of champagne, and the port on the top of it. " She doesn't do a thing I tell her. She doesn't care whether I'm dead or alive."
" I am sure you are wrong," Gabriel reassured him earnestly. " She has, I am sure, the highest possible opinion of your skill. She carries out your regime as far as possible. You think she should rest more? "
" She should do nothing but rest."
"But with an active mind?"
" It is not only her mind that is active."
" You mean the piano-playing, writing ..."
" She ought just to vegetate. She has a weak heart, one of the valves ..."
Gabriel rose hurriedly, it was not possible for him to listen to a description of his beloved's physical ailments. He was shocked with Peter for wishing to tell him, genuinely shocked. It was a breach of professional etiquette, of good manners. They arrived upstairs in the music room completely out of tune.
" He wouldn't even listen when I told him how seedy you were, that you ought to be kept quiet. Selfish owl. You've been out with him all day."
" I rested for half an hour before dinner. Do I look tired or washed out?" She turned a radiant face to Peter for investigation. "I am going to play to you presently, when you will see if I am without power."
"Power! Who said you were without that? You'd have power over the devil tonight."
"Or over my eccentric physician." She smiled at him. "Have you been behaving yourself prettily downstairs?"
"I haven't told him what I think of him, if that's what you mean!"
"Will you play first?" she asked him. Peter Kennedy was a genuine music lover, and he played well, very much better since Margaret Capel had come to Pineland. He sang also, but this accomplishment Margaret would never let him display. She had no use for a man's singing since James Capel had lured her with his love songs.
Gabriel was talking to his sister whilst Margaret and Peter had this little conversation. He was persuading her to an early retreat.
"Did you send my telegram to Mrs. Roope? I am sure I am getting better, I have been thinking so all the evening. She must have been treating me."
"I am sure, but are not the vibrations stronger between you if you are alone, if there is nothing to disturb your thoughts? ..." Even Gabriel Stanton could be disingenuous when the occasion demanded. She hesitated.
"Wouldn't Mrs. Capel be offended? One owes something to one's hostess. She has promised to play. You told me she played beautifully. I do think she is very sweet. But, Gabriel, have you thought of the flat? I shouldn't like to give it up. The gravel soil and air from the heath, and everything. Isn't she . . . isn't she ..."
"A size too big for it?" He finished her sentence for her.
"Too grand, I meant."
"Yes, too grand. Of course she is too grand." He turned to look at her. This time their eloquent eyes met. She indicated the piano stool to Peter Kennedy and came swiftly to the brother and sister.
"Has he made you comfortable?" She adjusted the pillows, and stole a glance at Gabriel. Whenever she looked at him it seemed that his eyes were upon her. They were extraordinarily conscious of each other, acting a little because Anne and Peter were there. Peter Kennedy, over on the music stool, struck a chord or two, as if to lure her back.
"One can always listen better when one is comfortable," she said to Anne. Then went over to the fender stool, where Gabriel joined her, after a moment's hesitation.
"Isn't it too hot for you? " she asked him innocently.
"It might have been," he answered, smiling, "only the fire is out."
"Is it?" she turned to look. "I had not noticed it. Hush! He is going to play the Berceuse. You haven't heard him before, have you? He plays quite well."
So they sat there together whilst Peter Kennedy played, and every now and then Anne said from the sofa:
"How delicious! Thank you ever so much. What was it? I thought I knew the piece."
Peter got up from the piano before Gabriel and Margaret had tired of sitting side by side on the fender stool, or Anne of ejaculating her little complimentary, grateful, or enquiring phrases.
"I suppose you've had enough of it," he said abruptly to Margaret.
"No, I haven't. You could have gone on for another hour."
Gabriel thought his manner singularly abrupt, almost rude. This was only the second or third time he had met Margaret's medical attendant, and he was not at all favourably impressed by him. As for Peter:
"Damned dry stick," he said to Margaret, when he had persuaded her to the redemption of her promise, and was leading her to the piano.
"What a boor you really are, notwithstanding your playing," she answered calmly, adjusting the candles, the height of the piano stool, looking out some music. "I really thought you were going to behave well tonight. And not a word about Christian Science," she chaffed him gently, "after all the coaching."
She too tried a few chords.
"I say, don't you play too long tonight. Don't you go overdoing it." Her chaff made no impression upon him, he was used to it. But he was struck by some alteration or intensification of her brilliancy. How could he know the secret of it? The love of which he was capable gave him no key to the spell that was on those two tonight.
Anne slipped off to bed presently, at Gabriel's whispered encouragement, and Margaret went on playing to the two men. Peter commented sometimes, asked for this or the other, went over and stood by her side, turning over the music, sat down beside her now and again. Gabriel remained on the corner of the sofa Anne had vacated, and listened. Therefore it was Peter who caught her when she fell forward with a little sigh or moan, Peter who caught her up in his arms and strode over with her to the sofa. Gabriel would have taken her from him, but Peter issued impatient orders.
"Open the window, pull the blind up, let us have as much air as possible. Ring for her maid, ring like blazes ... she has only fainted. Within a minute she was sitting up, radiantly white, but with shadows round her pale mouth and deep under her eyes.
"It is nothing, it is only a touch of faintness. Not an attack. Gabriel, you were not frightened?" she asked, and put out her hand to him.
Peter said something inarticulate and got up from where he had been kneeling beside her.
"I'll get you some brandy."
"Shall I go? "Gabriel asked, but was holding her hand.
"No, no. You stay. Dr. Kennedy knows where it is."
Gabriel knelt beside her now.
"Were you frightened?" she asked, still a little faintly.
"Love, lover, sweet, my heart was shaken with terror."
"It is really nothing. We have had such a wonderful day I was trying to play it all to you. Then the glory spread, brightened, overwhelmed me ..."
"Hush! he is coming back. You won't believe anything he tells you?"
"Not if you tell me you are not really ill? Oh! my darling! I could not bear it if you were to suffer. Let me get some one else ..."
Peter was back with the brandy, a measured dose, he brushed Gabriel aside as if now at least he had the mastery of the position. For all Gabriel's preoccupation with Margaret, Dr. Kennedy managed to attract from him a wondering moment of attention. Need he have knelt to administer the draught? What was it he was murmuring? Whatever it was Margaret was unwilling to hear. She leaned back, closing her eyes. When the maid came, torn reluctantly from her supper, she was able, nevertheless, to reassure her.
"Nothing of consequence, Stevens, not an attack. I am going across to my bedroom. One of you will lend me an arm," they were both in readiness, "or both." She took an arm of one and an arm of the other, smiled in both their faces. "What a way to wind up our little evening! You will have to forgive me, entertain each other."
"I'll come in again and see you when you are comfortable," the doctor said, a little defiantly, Gabriel thought.
"No, don't wait. Not on any account. Stevens knows everything to do for me. Show Mr. Stanton where the cigars are."
They were not in good humour when they left her.
"I don't smoke cigars," Gabriel said abruptly when Dr. Kennedy made a feint of carrying out her wishes. Peter shrugged his shoulders.
"She told me to find them for you."
"Has she had attacks like this before?" Gabriel asked, after a pause. Peter answered gloomily:
"And will again if she is allowed to overtire herself by driving for hours in the sun, and then encouraged to sit through a long dinner, talking all the time."
"She ought not to have played?" Peter Kennedy threw himself on to the sofa, desecrating it, bringing an angry flush to Gabriel's brow. But when he groaned and said:
"If one could only do anything for her!" Gabriel forgave him in that instant. Gabriel had lived all his life with an invalid. Attacks of hysteria and faintness had been his daily menu for years.
"But surely an attack of faintness is not very unusual or alarming? My sister often faints ..." "She isn't Margaret Capel, is she?" "You . . . you knew Mrs. Capel before she came to Carbies?"
"No, I didn't. But I know her now, don't I?" Gabriel was silent. He had seen a great many doctors too, before the Christian Scientists had broken their influence, but such a one as this was new to him. Margaret was so sacred and special to him that he did not know what to think. But Peter gave him little time for thinking. He fixed a gloomy eye upon him and said:
"A man's a man, you know, although he's nothing but a country practitioner." Gabriel was acutely annoyed, a little shocked, most supremely uncomfortable.
"But ought you to go on attending her?" he got out.
"I shan't do her any harm, shall I, because I am madly in love with her, because I could kiss the ground she walks on, because I'd give my life for hers and day?" Gabriel's face might have been carved. "She treats me like a dog. ..."
Gabriel made a gesture of dissent, Margaret could not treat any one like a dog.
"Oh, yes, she does, she says I'm not fit to wipe the mud off your shoes. ..."
Then Margaret knew. He was a little stunned and taken by surprise to think Margaret knew her doctor was in love with her, knew and had kept him in attendance. But of course she was right, everything she did was right. She had not taken the matter seriously.
"I suppose I'd better go." Peter dropped his feet to the ground, rose slowly. "She won't see me again if she says she won't. She's got her bromide. You might ring me up in the morning and tell me how she is, if she wants me to come round. That's not too much to ask, is it?" he said savagely.
"Not at all," Gabriel answered coldly. "I should of course do anything she wished." Peter paused a moment at the door.
"I say, you're not going to try and put her off me, are you? Just because I've let myself go to you?"
"I am not authorised to interfere in Mrs. Capel's affairs." Gabriel was quite himself again and very stiff.
"But I understand you will be."
"I would rather not discuss the future with you."
"Then you do intend to try and out me?"
Gabriel was suddenly a little sorry for him, he looked so desperately miserable and anxious, and after all he, Peter Kennedy, was leaving the house. Gabriel was remaining, sleeping under the same roof.
"I will see her maid if possible. You shall be called up if you are needed. Nothing but her well-being, her own wish will be thought of ... Anyway you shall have a report."
"As her doctor she trusts me. I can ease her symptoms." It was almost a plea. "She need not suffer."
"Of course you will be sent for. They have your telephone number?"
Peter held out his hand.
"Good-night. You're a good fellow. She is quite right. I suppose I ought not to have told you how it is with me...?"
"It is of no consequence," Gabriel answered, intending to be courteous.