My Cousin Rachel Chapter 20

I do not know if I showed my feelings in my face as plainly as I felt them in my heart, but I think I must have done; for Rachel passed swiftly on in conversation, telling Rainaldi that I was always without doors, riding or walking, she never knew where, nor had I fixed hours for my return. “Philip works harder than his own laborers,” she said, “and knows every inch of his estate far more than they do.”

She still kept her hand upon my arm, as though to show me off before her visitor, much as a teacher would a sullen child.

“I congratulate you upon your fine property,” said Rainaldi. “I do not wonder that your cousin Rachel has become so much attached to it. I have never seen her look so well.”

His eyes, the eyes that I remembered clearly, heavy-lidded and expressionless, dwelled upon her for a moment, then turned again to me.

“The air here,” he said, “must be more conducive to repose of mind and body than our keener air in Florence.”

“My cousin,” I said, “has her origin in the west country. She has merely returned where she belonged.”

He smiled, if the slight movement of his face could be so called, and addressed himself to Rachel. “It depends what tie of blood is strongest, does it not?” he said. “Your young relative forgets your mother came from Rome. And, I may add, you grow more like her every day.”

“In face alone, I hope,” said Rachel, “not in her figure nor in her character. Philip, Rainaldi declares that he will put up in a hostelry, whatever we can recommend, he is not particular, but I have told him it is nonsense. Surely we can place a room at his disposal here?”

My heart sank at the suggestion but I could not refuse it.

“Of course,” I said. “I will give orders at once, and send away the post chaise too, as you won’t want it further.”

“It brought me from Exeter,” said Rainaldi. “I will pay the man, and then hire again when I return to London.”

“There is plenty of time to decide upon that,” said Rachel. “Now that you are here you must stay a few days at least, so that you can see everything. Besides, we have so much to discuss.”

I went from the drawing room to give orders for a room to be prepared—there was a large bare one on the west side of the house that would do him well—and went slowly upstairs to my own room to bath myself and change for dinner. From my window I saw Rainaldi come out and pay the fellow with the post chaise, and then with an air of appraisal he stood a moment in the carriageway, to look about him. I had the feeling that in one glance he priced the timber, reckoned the value of the trees and shrubs, and I saw him, too, examine the carving on the front door and run his hand over the scrolled figures. Rachel must have joined him, and I heard her laugh, and then the pair of them began talking in Italian. The front door closed. They came inside.

I had half a mind to stay up in my room and not descend, to send word to John to bring me my dinner on a tray. If they had so much to talk about they could do it better with me absent. Yet I was host, and could not show discourtesy. Slowly I bathed, reluctantly I dressed, and came downstairs to find Seecombe and John busy in the dining room, which we had not used since the men had cleaned the paneling and done some repairs about the ceiling. The best silver was laid upon the table, and all the paraphernalia for visitors displayed.

“No need for all this pother,” I said to Seecombe, “we could have eaten in the library very well.”

“The mistress gave orders, sir,” said Seecombe, on his dignity, and I heard him order John to fetch the lace-edged napery from the pantry, that we did not even use for Sunday dinner.

I lit my pipe, and went out into the grounds. The spring evening was still bright, and twilight would not come for an hour or more. The candles were lighted in the drawing room, though, and the curtains not yet drawn. The candles were lighted too in the blue bedroom, and I saw Rachel pass to and fro before the windows as she dressed. It would have been an evening for the boudoir had we been alone, I hugging to myself the knowledge of what I had done in Bodmin, and she in gentle mood, telling me of her day. Now there would be none of this. Brightness in the drawing room, animation in the dining room, talk between the two of them about things that concerned me not; and over and above this the instinctive feeling of revulsion that I had about the man, that he came on no idle errand, to pass the time of day, but for some other purpose. Had Rachel known that he had arrived in England and would visit her? All the pleasure of my jaunt to Bodmin had left me. The schoolboy prank was over. I went into the house in low spirits, full of misgiving. Rainaldi was alone in the drawing room, standing by the fire. He had changed from traveling clothes to dinner dress, and was examining the portrait of my grandmother which hung upon one of the panels.

“A charming face,” he said, commenting on it, “fine eyes, and complexion. You come of a handsome family. The portrait in itself of no great value.”

“Probably not,” I said, “the Lelys and the Knellers are on the stairs, if you care to look at them.”

“I noticed them as I came down,” he answered. “The Lely is well placed but not the Kneller. The latter, I would say, is not in his best style, but executed in one of his more florid moments. Possibly finished by a pupil.” I said nothing, I was listening for Rachel’s step upon the stair. “In Florence, before I came away,” he said, “I was able to sell an early Furini for your cousin, part of the Sangalletti collection, now unfortunately dispersed. An exquisite thing. It used to hang upon the stairs at the villa, where the light caught it to its greatest advantage. You possibly would not have noticed it when you went to the villa.”

“Very possibly not,” I answered him.

Rachel came into the room. She was wearing the gown she had worn on Christmas Eve, but I saw she had a shawl about her shoulders. I was glad of it. She glanced from one to the other of us, as though to glean from our expressions how we were doing in conversation.

“I was just telling your cousin Philip,” said Rainaldi, “how fortunate I was to sell the Furini madonna. But what a tragedy that it had to go.”

“We are used to that, though, aren’t we?” she answered him. “So many treasures that could not be saved.” I found myself resenting the use of the word “we” in such a connection.

“Have you succeeded in selling the villa?” I asked bluntly.

“Not as yet,” answered Rainaldi, “in fact—that is partly why I came here to see your cousin Rachel—we are practically decided upon letting it instead, for a term of some three or four years. It would be more advantageous, and to let it not so final as to sell. Your cousin may wish to return to Florence, one of these days. It was her home for so many years.”

“I have no intention of going back as yet,” said Rachel.

“No, possibly not,” he replied, “but we shall see.”

His eyes followed her as she moved about the room, and I wished to heaven she would sit down so that he could not do so. The chair where she always sat stood back a little distance from the candlelight, leaving her face in shadow. There was no reason for her to move about the room unless to show her gown. I pulled a chair forward, but she did not sit.

“Imagine, Rainaldi has been in London for over a week, and did not tell me of it,” she said. “I have never been more surprised in my life than when Seecombe announced that he was here. I think it was very remiss of him not to give me warning.” She smiled over her shoulder at him, and he shrugged his shoulders.

“I hoped the surprise of a sudden arrival would give you greater pleasure,” he said; “the unexpected can be delightful or the reverse, it all depends upon the circumstances. Do you remember that time you were in Rome, and Cosimo and I turned up just as you were dressing for a party at the Casteluccis? You were distinctly annoyed with both of us.”

“Ah, but I had a reason for that,” she laughed. “If you have forgotten, I won’t remind you of it.”

“I have not forgotten,” he said. “I remember too the color of your gown. It was like amber. Also Benito Castelucci had presented you with flowers. I saw his card, and Cosimo did not.”

Seecombe came in to announce dinner, and Rachel led the way across the hall into the dining room, still laughing and reminding Rainaldi of happenings in Rome. I had never felt more glum or out of place. They went on talking personalities, and places, and now and again Rachel would put out her hand to me across the table, as she would do to a child, and say, “You must forgive us, Philip dear. It is so long since I have seen Rainaldi,” while he watched me with those dark hooded eyes, and slowly smiled.

Once or twice they broke into Italian. He would be telling her something, and suddenly search for a word that would not come, and with a bow of apology to me speak in his own language. She would answer him, and as she spoke and I heard the unfamiliar words pour from her lips, so much faster surely than when we talked together in English, it was as though her whole cast of countenance was changed; she became more animated and more vivid, yet harder in a sense, and with a new brilliance that I did not like so well.

It seemed to me that the pair of them were ill-placed at my table, in the paneled dining room; they should have been elsewhere, in Florence or in Rome, with smooth dark servants waiting on them and all the glitter of a society foreign to me chattering and smiling in these phrases I did not know. They should not be here, with Seecombe padding round in his leather slippers and one of the young dogs scratching under the table. I sat hunched in my chair, damping, discouraging, a death’s head at my own dinner, and, reaching for the walnuts, cracked them between my hands to relieve my feelings. Rachel sat with us while we passed the port and brandy. Or rather I passed it, for I took neither, while he drank both.

He lit a cigar, taking one from a case he carried with him, and surveyed me, as I lit my pipe, with an air of tolerance.

“All young Englishmen smoke pipes, it seems to me,” he observed. “The idea is that it helps digestion, but I am told it fouls the breath.”

“Like drinking brandy,” I answered, “which can foul the judgment too.”

I was reminded suddenly of poor Don, dead now in the plantation, and how in his younger days, when he had come upon a dog he much disliked, his hackles rose, his tail stood stiff and straight, and with a bound he seized him by the throat. I knew now how he must have felt.

“If you will excuse us, Philip,” said Rachel, rising from her chair, “Rainaldi and I have much we must discuss, and he has papers with him that I have to sign. It will be best to do it upstairs, in the boudoir. Will you join us presently?”

“I think not,” I said. “I have been out all day and have letters in the office. I will wish you both good night.”

She went from the dining room, and he followed her. I heard them go upstairs. I was still sitting there when John came to clear the table.

I went out then, and walked about the grounds. I saw the light in the boudoir, but the curtains were drawn. Now they were together they would speak Italian. She would be sitting in the low chair by the fire, and he beside her. I wondered if she would tell him about our conversation of the preceding night, and how I had taken away the will and made a copy of it. I wondered what advice he gave to her, what words of counsel, and what papers he too brought from his file to show her that she must sign. When they had finished business, did they return again to personalities, to the discussing of people and of places they both knew? And would she brew tisana for him, as she did for me, and move about the room so that he could watch her? I wondered at what time he would take his leave of her and go to bed, and when he did so would she give him her hand? Would he stay awhile, lingering by the door, making an excuse to dally, as I did myself? Or knowing him so well, would she permit him to stay late?

I went on walking in the grounds, up to the new terrace walk, down the pathway nearly to the beach and back, up again along the walk where the young cedar trees were planted, and so round and back and round again, until I heard the clock in the belfry strike ten. That was my hour of dismissal: would it be his, as well? I went and stood at the edge of the lawn, and watched her window. The light was still burning in her boudoir. I watched, and waited. It continued burning. I had been warm from walking but now the air was chill, under the trees. My hands and feet grew cold. The night was dark and utterly without music. No frosty moon this evening topped the trees. At eleven, just after the clock struck, the light in the boudoir was extinguished and the light in the blue bedroom came instead. I paused a moment and then, on a sudden, walked round the back of the house and past the kitchens, and so to the west front, and looked up at the window of Rainaldi’s room. Relief came to me. A light burned there as well. I could see the chink of it, though he kept his shutters closed. The window was tight shut as well. I felt certain, with a sense of insular satisfaction, that he would open neither for the night.

I went into the house and up the staircase to my room. I had just taken off my coat and my cravat, and flung them on the chair, when I heard the rustle of her gown in the corridor, and then a soft tapping on the door. I went and opened it. She stood there, not yet undressed, with that same shawl about her shoulders still.

“I came to wish you good night,” she said.

“Thank you,” I answered, “I wish you the same.”

She looked down at me, and saw the mud upon my shoes.

“Where have you been all evening?” she asked.

“Out walking in the grounds,” I answered her.

“Why did you not come to the boudoir for your tisana?” she asked.

“I did not care to do so,” I replied.

“You are very ridiculous,” she said. “You behaved at dinner like a sulky schoolboy in need of a whipping.”

“I am sorry,” I said.

“Rainaldi is a very old friend, you know that well,” she said. “We had much to talk about, surely you understand?”

“Is it because he is such an older friend than I that you permit him to linger in the boudoir until eleven?” I asked.

“Was it eleven?” she said. “I really did not realize it.”

“How long is he going to stay?” I asked.

“That depends on you. If you are civil, and will invite him, he will stay for perhaps three days. More is not possible. He has to return to London.”

“Since you ask me to invite him, I must do so.”

“Thank you, Philip.” Suddenly she looked up at me, her eyes softened, and I saw the trace of a smile at the corner of her mouth. “What is the matter,” she said, “why are you so foolish? What were you thinking of, as you paced about the grounds?”

I might have answered her a hundred things. How I distrusted Rainaldi, how I hated his presence in my house, how I wanted it to be as it was before, and she alone with me. Instead, for no reason save that I loathed all that had been discussed that evening, I said to her, “Who was Benito Castelucci that he had to give you flowers?”

The bubble of laughter rose within her, and, reaching up, she put her arms about me. “He was old, and very fat, and his breath smelled of cigars—and I love you much too much,” she said, and went.

I have no doubt she was asleep within twenty minutes of leaving me, while I heard the clock in the belfry chime every hour until four; and falling into that uneasy morning slumber that becomes heaviest at seven was woken ruthlessly by John at my usual hour.

Rainaldi stayed, not for three days but for seven, and in those seven days I found no reason to alter my opinion of him. I think what I disliked most was his air of tolerance towards me. A kind of half-smile played upon his lips whenever he looked on me, as though I were a child to be humored, and whatever business I had been upon during the day was inquired about and treated like a schoolboy escapade. I made a point of not returning for any midday luncheon, and when I came home and entered the drawing room in the afternoon, a little after four, I would find the pair of them together, talking their inevitable Italian, which would be broken off at my entrance.

“Ah, the worker returns,” Rainaldi would say, seated, God damn him, in the chair I always used when we had been alone. “And while he has been tramping about his acres and seeing, no doubt, that his plows make the necessary furrows in the soil, you and I, Rachel, have been many hundred miles away in thought and fancy. We have not stirred for the day, except to wander on the new terrace walk. Middle age has many compensations.”

“You are bad for me, Rainaldi,” she would answer; “since you have been here I have neglected all my duties. Paid no visits, supervised no planting. Philip will scold me for idleness.”

“You have not been idle intellectually,” came his reply. “We have covered as much ground in that sense as your young cousin has in actual fact upon his feet. Or was it not upon feet today, but in the saddle? Young Englishmen are forever driving their bodies to fatigue.”

I could sense his mockery of me, a cart-horse with a turnip head, and the way Rachel came to my rescue, once more the teacher with her pupil, made me more angry still.

“Surely it is Wednesday,” she said, “and on Wednesday Philip does not ride or walk, he does his accounts, in the office. He has a good head for figures, and knows exactly what he spends, don’t you, Philip?”

“Not always,” I answered, “and in point of fact today I attended Petty Sessions for a neighbor, and sat in judgment upon a fellow accused of theft. He was let off with a fine, and not imprisoned.”

Rainaldi watched me, with his same air of tolerance.

“A young Solomon as well as a young farmer,” he said. “I am continually hearing of new talents. Rachel, does not your cousin remind you very much of Del Sarto’s portrait of the Baptist? He has much the same arrogance and innocence so charmingly blended.”

“Perhaps,” said Rachel, “I had not thought of it before. He resembles one person only, to my mind.”

“Ah, that of course,” answered Rainaldi, “but there is also quite definitely a Del Sarto touch about him. Some time you will have to wean him from his acres here, and show him our country. Travel broadens the mind, and I would like to see him wander in a gallery or a church.”

“Ambrose was bored by both,” said Rachel, “I doubt if Philip would be anymore impressed. Well, did you see your godfather at Petty Sessions? I would like to take Rainaldi to call upon him at Pelyn.”

“Yes, he was there,” I said, “and sent you his respects.”

“Mr. Kendall has a very charming daughter,” said Rachel to Rainaldi, “a little younger than Philip.”

“A daughter? H’m, indeed,” observed Rainaldi, “then your young cousin is not entirely cut off from youthful feminine society?”

“Far from it,” laughed Rachel. “Every mother has her eye upon him within a distance of forty miles.”

I remember glaring at her, and she laughed the more; and passing by me on her way to dress for dinner, she patted my shoulder in the infuriating habit that was hers—aunt Phoebe’s gesture, I had called it before now, which delighted her as though I told her so for compliment.

It was upon this occasion that Rainaldi said to me, when she had gone upstairs, “It was generous of you and your guardian to give your cousin Rachel the allowance. She wrote and told me of it. She was deeply touched.”

“It was the very least the estate owed to her,” I said, and hoped my tone of voice was discouraging to further conversation. I would not tell him what was going to happen in three weeks’ time.

“You perhaps know,” said Rainaldi, “that apart from the allowance she has no personal means whatsoever, except what I can sell for her from time to time. This change of air has done wonders for her, but I think before long she will feel the need of society, such as she has been used to in Florence. That is the real reason I do not get rid of the villa. The ties are very strong.”

I did not answer. If the ties were strong, it was only because he made them so. She had spoken of no ties until he came. I wondered what was the extent of his own personal wealth, and if he gave her money from his own possession, not only what he sold from Sangalletti’s estate. How right Ambrose had been to distrust him. But what weakness in Rachel made her keep him as her counselor and friend?

“Of course,” continued Rainaldi, “it would possibly be wiser to sell the villa eventually, and for Rachel to have a small apartment in Florence, or else to build something small, up in Fiesole. She has so many friends who have no wish to lose her, I among them.”

“You told me, when we first met,” I said, “that my cousin Rachel was a woman of impulse. No doubt she will continue to be so, and live where she pleases.”

“No doubt,” answered Rainaldi. “But the nature of her impulses has not always led her into happiness.”

I suppose by this he wanted to infer that her marriage with Ambrose had been on impulse, and unhappy likewise, and that her coming to England was also impulse, and he was uncertain of the outcome of it. He had power over her, because he had the management of her affairs, and it was this power that might take her back to Florence. I believed that was the purpose of his visit, so to drum it into her, and possibly to tell her also that the allowance the estate paid to her would not be sufficient to maintain her indefinitely. I had the trump card, and he did not know it. In three weeks’ time she would be independent of Rainaldi for the rest of her life. I could have smiled, but for the fact that I disliked him too intensely to do so in his presence.

“It must be very strange, with your upbringing, suddenly to entertain a woman in the house, and for many months, as you have done,” said Rainaldi, with his hooded eyes upon me. “Has it put you out at all?”

“On the contrary,” I said, “I find it very pleasant.”

“Strong medicine, all the same,” he answered, “for one young and inexperienced like yourself. Taken in so large a dose, it could do damage.”

“At nearly five-and-twenty,” I replied, “I think I know pretty well what medicine suits me.”

“Your cousin Ambrose thought so too, at forty-three,” answered Rainaldi, “but as it turned out he was wrong.”

“Is that a word of warning, or of advice?” I asked.

“Of both,” he said, “if you will take it the right way. And now, if you will excuse me, I must go dress for dinner.”

I suppose this was his method to drive a wedge between me and Rachel, to drop a word, hardly venomous in itself, yet with sufficient sting to foul the air. If he suggested I should beware of her, what did he hint of me? Did he dismiss me with a shrug, as they sat together in the drawing room when I was absent, saying how inevitable it was for young Englishmen to be long of limb and lacking in brain, or would that be too easy an approach? He certainly had a store of personal remarks, always ready to his tongue, to cast aspersion.

“The trouble with very tall men,” he said, on one occasion, “is the fatal tendency to stoop.” (I was standing under the lintel of the doorway when he said this, bending my head to say a word to Seecombe.) “Also, the more muscular among them turn to fat.”

“Ambrose was never fat,” said Rachel swiftly.

“He did not take the exercise that this lad takes. It is the violent walking, riding and swimming that develops the wrong portions of the body. I have noticed it very often, and nearly always among Englishmen. Now, in Italy we are smaller boned, and lead more sedentary lives. Therefore we keep our figures. Our diet, too, is easier on the liver and the blood. Not so much heavy beef and mutton. As to pastry…” He gestured with his hands in deprecation. “This boy is forever eating pastry. I saw him demolish a whole pie for dinner yesterday.”

“Do you hear that, Philip?” said Rachel. “Rainaldi considers that you eat too much. Seecombe, we shall have to cut down on Mr. Philip’s food.”

“Surely not, madam,” said Seecombe, greatly shocked. “To eat less than he does would be injurious to health. We have to remember, madam, that in all probability Mr. Philip is still growing.”

“Heaven forbid,” murmured Rainaldi. “If he is growing still at twenty-four one would fear some serious glandular disturbance.”

He sipped his brandy, which she permitted him to take into the drawing room, with a meditative air, his eyes upon me, until I felt for all the world that I was nearly seven foot, like poor dull-witted Jack Trevose who was hawked about Bodmin fair by his mother for the people to stare at him and give him pennies.

“I suppose,” said Rainaldi, “that you do enjoy good health? No serious illness as a child that would account for growth?”

“I don’t remember,” I answered, “ever having been ill in my life.”

“That in itself is bad,” he said; “those who have never suffered from disease are the first to be struck down, when nature attacks them. Am I not right in saying so, Seecombe?”

“Very possibly, sir. I hardly know,” said Seecombe; but as he went from the room I noticed him glance at me in doubt, as if I already sickened for the smallpox. “This brandy,” said Rainaldi, “should have been kept for at least another thirty years. It will be drinkable when young Philip’s children come of age. Do you remember, Rachel, that evening at the villa when you and Cosimo entertained the whole of Florence, or so it seemed, and he insisted that all of us should be in dominoes and masks, like a Venetian carnival? And your dear lamented mother behaved so badly with prince someone-or-other, I think it was Lorenzo Ammanati, wasn’t it?”

“It could have been with anyone,” said Rachel, “but it was not Lorenzo, he was too busy running after me.”

“What nights of folly,” mused Rainaldi. “We were all of us absurdly young, and entirely irresponsible. Far better to be staid and peaceful as we are today. I think they never give such parties here in England? The climate, of course, would be against it. But for that, young Philip here might find it amusing to dress himself up in mask and domino and search about the bushes for Miss Kendall.”

“I am sure Louise would ask for nothing better,” answered Rachel, and I saw her eye upon me and her mouth twitch.

I went out of the room and left them, and almost at once I heard them break into Italian, his voice interrogatory, and hers laughing in answer to his question, and I knew they were discussing me, and possibly Louise also, and the whole damned story of the rumors that were supposed to go about the countryside concerning some future betrothal between the pair of us. God! How much longer was he going to stay? How many more days and nights of this must I endure?

Eventually, on the last evening of his visit, my godfather, with Louise, came to dine. The evening passed off well, or so it seemed. I saw Rainaldi putting himself to infinite trouble to be courteous to my godfather, and the three of them, he, Rainaldi, and Rachel, somehow formed themselves into a group for conversation, leaving Louise and me to entertain ourselves. Now and again I noticed Rainaldi look towards us, smiling with a sort of amiable indulgence, and once I even heard him say, sotto voce, to my godfather, “All my compliments upon your daughter and your godson. They make a very charming couple.” Louise heard it too. The poor girl flushed crimson. And at once I began asking her when she was next due to visit London, which I hoped would ease her feelings, but for all I know it may have made it worse. After dinner the subject of London came up once again, and Rachel said, “I hope to visit London myself before very long. If we are there at the same time”—this to Louise—“you must show me all the sights, because I have never been there.”

My godfather pricked up his ears at her remark.

“So you are thinking of leaving the country?” he said. “Well, you have certainly endured the rigors of a winter visit to us in Cornwall very well. You will find London more amusing.” He turned to Rainaldi. “You will still be there?”

“I have business there for some weeks yet,” replied Rainaldi, “but if Rachel decides to come up I shall very naturally put myself at her disposal. I am no stranger to your capital. I know it very well. I hope that you and your daughter will give us the pleasure of dining with us, when you are there.”

“We shall be very happy to,” said my godfather. “London in the spring can be delightful.”

I could have hit the whole bunch of heads together for the calm assumption of their meeting, but Rainaldi’s use of the word “us” maddened me the most. I could see his plan. Lure her to London, entertain her there while he conducted his other business, and then prevail upon her to return to Italy. And my godfather, for his own reasons, would further such a plan.

They little knew I had a plot to fox them all. So the evening passed, with much expression of goodwill on every side, and with Rainaldi even drawing my godfather apart for the last twenty minutes or more, to drop more venom of some sort or other, I well imagined.

I did not return to the drawing room, after the Kendalls had gone. I went up to bed, leaving my door ajar so that I could hear Rachel and Rainaldi as they came upstairs. They were long in doing so. Midnight struck, and they were still below. I went and stood out on the landing, listening. The drawing room door was open a little, and I could hear the murmur of their voices. Resting my hand upon the banister, to bear my weight, I went halfway down the stairs in my bare feet. Memory flashed back to childhood. I had done this as a lad, when I knew Ambrose was below and had company for dinner. The same sense of guilt was with me now. The voices went on and on. But listening to Rachel and Rainaldi was of no purpose, for they spoke together in Italian. Now and again I caught mention of my name, Philip, and several times that of my godfather, Kendall. They were discussing me or him, or both of us. Rachel had an urgency to her voice that sounded strange, and he, Rainaldi, spoke as though he questioned her. I wondered, with sudden revulsion, if my godfather had told Rainaldi about his traveling friends from Florence, and if, in his turn, Rainaldi talked of this to Rachel. How useless had been my Harrow education, and the study of Latin and Greek. Here were two persons talking Italian in my own house, discussing perhaps matters that might be of great importance to me, and I could gather nothing from it, save the mention of my own name.

There fell a sudden silence. Neither of them spoke. I heard no movement. What if he had gone towards her, and had put his arms about her, and she kissed him now as she had kissed me on Christmas Eve? Such a wave of hatred for him came to me at the thought that I nearly lost all caution and went running down the stairs to fling the door open wide. Then I heard her voice once more, and the rustle of her gown, drawing nearer to the door. I saw the flicker of her lighted candle. The long session was over at last. They were coming up to bed. Like that child of long ago, I stole back to my room.

I heard Rachel pass along the corridor to her own suite of rooms, and he turn the other way to his. I would never know, in all probability, what they had discussed together all those hours, but at least this was his last night under my roof, and tomorrow I should sleep with an easy heart. I could hardly swallow my breakfast, the next morning, in haste to hurry him away. The wheels of the post chaise that was to carry him to London sounded on the drive, and Rachel, who I had thought must have said farewell the night before, came down, ready dressed for gardening, to bid him good-bye.

He took her hand, and kissed it. This time, for the sake of common courtesy to me, his host, he spoke his adieus in English. “So you will write me your plans?” he said to her. “Remember, when you are ready to come, I shall await you there, in London.”

“I shall make no plans,” she said, “before the first of April.” And, looking over his shoulder, she smiled at me.

“Isn’t that your cousin’s birthday?” said Rainaldi, climbing into the post chaise. “I hope he enjoys it, and does not eat too large a pie.” And then, looking from the window, said as a parting shot to me, “It must be odd to have a birthday on so singular a date. All Fools Day, is it not? But perhaps, at twenty-five, you will think yourself too old to be reminded of it.” Then he was gone, the post chaise passing down the drive to the park-gates. I looked across at Rachel.

“Perhaps,” she said, “I should have asked him to return upon that day, for celebration?” Then, with the sudden smile that touched my heart, she took the primrose she had been wearing in her gown and put it in my buttonhole. “You have been very good,” she murmured, “for seven days. And I, neglectful of my duties. Are you glad we are alone again?” Without waiting for my answer she went off to the plantation after Tamlyn.