Beyond the Rocks (Chapter 26)

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Chapter 26

At luncheon, when Theodora descended from her room, the whole party were
assembled and already seated at the several little tables. The only
vacant place left was just opposite Hector.

And there they faced each other during the meal, and all the time her
eyes reminded him of the wounded fawn again, only they were sadder, if
possible, and her face was pinched and pale, not the exquisite natural
white of its usual fresh, soft velvet.

Something clutched at his heart-strings. What extra sorrow had happened
to her since last night? What could he do to comfort and protect her?
There was only one way--to take her with him out of it all.

After the first nine days' wonder, people would forget. It would be an
undefended suit when Josiah should divorce her, and then he would marry
her and have her for his very own. And what would they care for the
world's sneers?

His whole being was thrilled and exalted with these thoughts; his brain
was excited as with strong wine.

To have her for his own!

Even the memory of his mother only caused him a momentary pang. No one
could help loving Theodora, and she--his mother--would get over it, too,
and learn her sweetness and worth.

He was wildly happy now that he had made up his mind--so surely can
passionate desire block out every other feeling.

The guests at their table were all more or less civil. Theodora's
unassuming manner had disarmed them, and as savage beasts had been
charmed of old by Orpheus and his lute, so perhaps her gentle voice had
soothed this company--the women, of course; there had been no question
of the men from the beginning.

Mildred's programme to make Mrs. Brown suffer was not having the success
her zeal in promoting it deserved.

The weather was still glorious, and after lunch the whole party flocked
out on the terrace.

A terrible nervous fear was dominating Theodora. She could not be alone
with Hector, she did not dare to trust herself. And there would be the
to-morrow and the Wednesday--without Josiah--and the soft warmth of the
evenings and the glamour of the nights.

Oh, everything was too cruel and impossible! And wherever she turned she
seemed to see in blazing letters, "A second honeymoon!"

The first was a horrible, fearsome memory which was over long ago, but
the thought of a second--now that she knew what love meant, and what
life with the loved one might mean--Oh, it was
unbearable--terrible--impossible! better, much better, to die and have
done with it all.

She kept close to Barbara, and when Barbara moved she feverishly engaged
the Crow in conversation--any one--something to save her from any chance
of listening to Hector's persuasive words. And the Crow's kind heart was
pained by the hunted expression in her eyes. They seemed to ask for help
and sanctuary.

"Shall we walk down to the polo-field, Mrs. Brown?" he said, and she
gladly acquiesced and started with him.

If she had been a practised coquette she could not have done anything
more to fan the flame of Hector's passion.

Lady Harrowfield had detained him on the top of the steps, and he saw
her go off with the Crow and was unable to rush after them.

And when at last he was free he felt almost drunk with passion.

He had learned of Josiah's intended departure on the morrow, and that
Theodora would join him again on the Thursday, and his mind was made up.
On Wednesday night he would take her away with him to Italy. She should
never belong to Josiah any more. She was his in soul and mind already,
he knew, and she should be his in body, too, and he would cherish and
love and protect her to the end of his life.

Every detail of his plan matured itself in his brain. It only wanted her
consent, and that, when opportunity should be given him to plead his
cause, he did not greatly fear would be refused.

Hitherto he had ever restrained himself when alone with her, had
dominated his desire to make love to her; had never once, since Paris,
given way to passion or tender words during their moments together.

But he remembered that hour of bliss on the way from Versailles; he
remembered how she had thrilled, too, how he had made her feel and
respond to his every caress.

Yes--she was not cold, his white angel!

He was playing in the scratch team of the polo match, and the wild
excitement of his thoughts, coursing through his blood, caused him to
ride like a mad thing.

Never had he done so brilliantly.

And Theodora, while she was every now and then convulsed with fear for
him, had moments of passionate admiration.

The Crow remained at her side in the tent. He knew Hector would not be
jealous of him, and the instinct of the brink of calamity was strong
upon him, from the look in Theodora's eyes.

He used great tact--he turned the conversation to Anne and the children,
and then to Lady Bracondale and Hector's home, all in a casual, abstract
way, and he told her of Lady Bracondale's great love for her son, and of
her hopes that he would marry soon, and how that Hector would be the
last of his race--for Evermond Le Mesurier did not count--and many
little tales about Bracondale and its people.

It was all done so wisely and well; not in the least as a note of
warning. And all he said sank deep into Theodora's heart. She had never
even dreamed of the plan which was now matured in Hector's brain--of
going away with him. He, as really a lover, was not for her, that was a
foregone conclusion. It was the fear of she knew not what which troubled
her. She was too unsophisticated and innocent to really know--only that
to be with him now was a continual danger; soon she knew she would not
be able to control herself, she must be clasped in his arms.

And then--and then--there was the picture in front of her of Josiah and
the "second honeymoon."

Thus while she sat there gazing at the man she passionately loved
playing polo, she was silently suffering all the anguish of which a
woman's heart is capable.

The only possible way was to part from Hector forever--to say the last
good-bye before she should go, like a sheep, to the slaughter.

When she was once more the wife of Josiah she could never look upon his
face again.

And if Hector had known the prospect that awaited her at Bessington
Hall, it would have driven him--already mad--to frenzy.

The day wore on, and still Theodora's fears kept her from allowing a
tête-à-tête when he dismounted and joined them for tea.

But fate had determined otherwise. And as the soft evening came several
of the party walked down by the river--which ran on the western side
below the rose-gardens and the wood of firs--to see Barbara's many
breeds of ducks and water-fowl.

Then Hector's determination to be alone with her conquered for the time.
Theodora found herself strolling with him in a path of meeting willows,
with a summer-house at the end, by the water's bank.

They were quite separated from the others by now. They, with affairs of
their own to pursue, had spread in different directions.

And it was evening, and warm, and June.

There was a strange, weird silence between them, and both their hearts
were beating to suffocation--hers with the thought of the anguish of
parting forever, his with the exaltation of the picture of parting no

They came to the little summer-house, and there they sat down and
surveyed the scene. The evening lights were all opalescent on the water,
there was peace in the air and brilliant fresh green on the trees, and
soft and liquid rose the nightingale's note. So at last Hector broke the

"Darling," he said, "I love you--I love you so utterly this cannot go
on. I must have you for my own--" and then, as she gasped, he continued
in a torrent of passionate words.

He told her of his infinite love for her; of the happiness he would fill
her life with; of his plan that they should go away together when she
should leave Beechleigh; of the joy of their days; of the tender care he
would take of her; and every and each sentence ended with a passionate
avowal of his love and devotion.

Then a terrible temptation seized Theodora. She had never even dreamed
of this ending to the situation; and it would mean no second honeymoon
of loathsome hours, but a glorious fulfilment of all possible joy.

For one moment the whole world seemed golden with happiness; but it was
only of short duration. The next instant she remembered Josiah and her
given word.

No, happiness was not for her. Death and sleep were all she could hope
for; but she must not even hope for them. She must do what was right,
and be true to herself, advienne que pourra. And perhaps some angel
would give her oblivion or let her drink of Lethe, though she should
never reach those waters beyond the rocks.

He saw the exaltation in her beautiful face as he spoke, and wild joy
seized him. Then he saw the sudden droop of her whole body and the
light die out of her eyes, and in a voice of anguish he implored her: "Darling, darling! Won't you listen to what I say to you? Won't you
answer me, and come with me?"

"No, Hector," she said, and her voice was so low he had to bend closer
to hear.

He clasped her to his side, he covered her face with kisses, murmuring
the tenderest love-words.

She did not resist him or seek to escape from his sheltering, strong
arms. This was the end of her living life, why should she rob herself of
a last joy?

She laid her head on his shoulder, and there she whispered in a voice he
hardly recognized, so dominated it was by sorrow and pain: "It must be
good-bye, beloved; we must not meet. Ah! never any more. I have been
meaning to say this to you all the day. I cannot bear it either. Oh, we
must part, and it must end; but oh, not--not in that way!"

He tried to persuade her, he pleaded with her, drew pictures of their
happiness that surely would be, talked of Italy and eternal summer and
exquisite pleasure and bliss.

And all the time he felt her quiver in his arms and respond to each
thought, as her imagination took fire at the beautiful pictures of love
and joy. But nothing shook her determination.

At last she said: "Dearest, if I were different perhaps, stronger and
braver, I could go away and live with you like that, and keep it all a
glorious thing; but I am not--only a weak creature, and the memory of my
broken word, and Josiah's sorrow, and your mother's anguish, would kill
all joy. We could have blissful moments of forgetfulness, but the great
ghost of remorse would chase for me all happiness away. Dearest, I love
you so; but oh, I could not live, haunted like that; I should

Then he knew all hope was over, and the mad passion went out of him, and
his arms dropped to his sides as if half life had fled. She looked up in
his face in fear at its ghastly whiteness.

And at this moment, through the parted willows, there appeared the
sullen, mocking eyes of Morella Winmarleigh.

She pushed the bushes aside, and, followed by Lord Wensleydown, she came
towards the summer-house.

Her slow senses had taken in the scene. Hector was evidently very
unhappy, she thought, and that hateful woman had been teasing him, no

Thus her banal mind read the tragedy of these two human lives.

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