air, and clustered above their nests, the smoke from the chimneys curled upwards in thin blue lines, and William was lighting the candles in the hall. She supped late, making her own time-early dinner, thank heaven, was now a thing of the past-and she ate with a new and guilty enjoyment, sitting all alone at the head of the long table, while William stood behind her chair and waited silently.

They made a strange contrast, he in his sober dark clothes, his small inscrutable face, his little eyes, his button mouth, and she in her white gown, the ruby pendant round her throat, her hair caught back behind her ears in the fashionable ringlets.

Tall candles stood on the table, and a draught from the open window caused a tremor in their flame, and the flame played a shadow on her features. Yes, thought the manservant, my mistress is beautiful, but petulant too, and a little sad. There is something of discontent about the mouth, and a faint trace of a line between the eyebrows. He filled her glass once more, comparing the reality before him to the likeness that hung on the wall in the bedroom upstairs. was it only last week that he had stood there, with someone beside him, and the someone had said jokingly, glancing up at her likeness: 'Shall we ever see her, William, or will she remain forever a symbol of the unknown?' and looking closer, smiling a little, he had added: 'The eyes are large and very lovely, William, but they hold shadows too. There are smudges beneath the lids as though someone had touched them with a dirty finger.'

'Are there grapes?' said his mistress suddenly, breaking in upon the silence. 'I have a fancy for grapes, black and succulent, with the bloom on them, all dusty.'

'Yes, my lady,' said the servant, dragged back into the present, and he fetched her grapes, cutting a bunch with the silver scissors and putting them on her plate, his button mouth twisted as he thought of the news he would have to carry to-morrow, or the next day, when the spring tides were due again and the ship returned.

'William,' she said.

'My lady?'

'My nurse tells me that the servant girls upstairs are new to the house, that you sent for them when you heard I was arriving? She says one comes from Constantine, another from Gweek, even the cook himself is new, a fellow from Penzance.'

'That is perfectly true, my lady.'

'What was the reason, William? I understood always, and I think Sir Harry thought the same, that Navron was fully staffed?'

'It seemed to me, my lady, possibly wrongly, that is for you to say, that one idle servant was sufficient about the house. For the last year I have lived here entirely alone.'

She glanced at him over her shoulder, biting her bunch of grapes.

'I could dismiss you for that, William.'

'Yes, my lady.'

'I shall probably do so in the morning.'

'Yes, my lady.'

She went on eating her grapes, considering him as she did so, irritated and a little intrigued that a servant could be so baffling a person. Yet she knew she was not going to send him away.

'Supposing I do not dismiss you, William, what then?'

'I will serve you faithfully, my lady,'

'How can I be sure of that?'

'I have always served faithfully the people I love, my lady.'

And to this she could make no answer, for his small button mouth was as impassive as ever, and his eyes said nothing, but she felt in her heart that he was not laughing at her now, he was speaking the truth. 'Am I to take that as a compliment then, William?' she said at last, rising to her feet, as he pulled away her chair.

'It was intended as one, my lady,' he said, and she swept from the room without a word, knowing that in this odd little man with his funny half-courteous, half-familiar manner she had found an ally, a friend. She laughed secretly to herself, thinking of Harry and how he would stare without comprehension: 'What damned impertinence, the fellow needs whipping.'

It was all wrong of course, William had behaved disgracefully, he had no business to live alone in the house, and no wonder there was dust everywhere, and a graveyard smell. But she understood it for all that, because had she not come here to do the same thing herself? Perhaps William had a nagging wife, and an existence in another part of Cornwall too full of cares; perhaps he too had wished to escape? She wondered, as she rested in the salon, staring at the wood fire he had kindled, on her lap a book that she did not read, whether he had sat here amongst the sheets and coverlets before she came, and whether he begrudged her the use of the room now. Oh, the lovely luxury of stillness, to live alone like this, a cushion behind her head, a draught of air from the open window ruffling her hair, and to rest secure in the knowledge that no one would come blundering in upon her presence with a loud laugh, with a voice that grated-that all those things belonged to another world. a world of dusty cobbled stones, of street smells, of apprentice boys, of ugly music, of taverns, of false friendships and futility. Poor Harry, he would be supping now with Rockingham probably, bemoaning his fate at the Swan, dozing over cards, drinking a little too much, saying: 'Damn it, she kept talking about a bird, saying she felt like a bird, what the devil did she mean?' And Rockingham, with his pointed, malicious smile and those narrow eyes that understood, or thought they understood, her baser qualities would murmur: 'I wonder-I very much wonder.'

Presently, when the fire had sunk, and the room cooled, she went upstairs to her bedroom, first passing through the children's rooms to see if all was well. Henrietta looked like a waxen doll, her fair curls framing her face, her mouth slightly pouted, while James in his cot frowned in his sleep, chubby and truculent, like a little pug- dog. She tucked his fist inside the cover, kissing it as she did so, and he opened one eye and smiled. She stole away, ashamed of her furtive tenderness for him-so primitive, so despicable, to be moved to folly, simply because he was male. He would no doubt grow up to be fat, and gross, and unattractive, making some woman miserable.

Someone-William she supposed-had cut a sprig of lilac and placed it in her room, on the mantelshelf, beneath the portrait of herself. It filled the room with scent, heady and sweet. Thank God, she thought, as she undressed, there will be no pattering feet of spaniels, no scratching noises, no doggy smells, and the great deep bed is mine alone. Her own portrait looked down at her with interest. Have I that sulky mouth, she thought, that petulant frown? Did I look like that six, seven years ago? Do I look like it still?

She pulled on her nightgown, silken and white, and cool, and stretched her arms above her head, and leant from the casement. The branches stirred against the sky. Below the garden, away down in the valley, the river ran to meet the tide. She pictured the fresh water, bubbling with the spring rains, surging against the salt waves, and how the two would mingle and become one, and break upon the beaches. She pulled the curtains back, so that the light should flood the room, and she turned to her bed, placing her candlestick on the table at her side.

Then drowsing, half asleep, watching the moon play patterns on the floor, she wondered what other scent it was that mingled itself with the lilac, a stronger, harsher smell, something whose name eluded her. It stung her nostrils even now, as she turned her head on the pillow. It seemed to come from the drawer beneath the table, and stretching out her arm she opened the drawer, and looked inside. There was a book there, and a jar of tobacco. It was the tobacco she had smelt of course. She picked up the jar, the stuff was brown and strong and freshly cut. Surely William had not the audacity to sleep in her bed, to lie there, smoking, looking at her portrait? That was a little too much, that was really unforgivable. There was something so personal about this tobacco, so very unlike William, that surely she must be mistaken-and yet-if William had lived here at Navron, for a year, alone?

She opened the book-was he then a reader as well? And now she was more baffled than before, for the book was a volume of poetry, French poetry, by the poet Ronsard, and on the fly-leaf someone had scribbled the initials 'J. B. A. Finisterre' and underneath had drawn a tiny picture of a gull.

Chapter IV

WHEN SHE AWOKE, the next morning, her first thought was to send for William, and, confronting him with the jar of tobacco and the volume of poetry, to enquire whether he had slept ill on his new mattress, and whether he had missed the comfort of her bed. She played with the idea, amusing herself at the picture of his small

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