Such contingencies lay outside her ken; she would have brushed them away with a laughing contempt had they been presented to her. Her life was at once too happy and too busy for such things. How could anyone fall in love with Aldous's wife? Why should they? if one was to ask the simplest question of all.

In her own sphere at the Court, or in points connected with what was due to the family, or to Lord Maxwell especially, as the head of it, this short, capable old lady could hold her own amply with Aldous's betrothed, could maintain, indeed, a sharp and caustic dignity, which kept Marcella very much in order.

All the morning he had been occupied with a tedious piece of local business, wading through endless documents concerning a dispute between the head-master of a neighbouring grammar-school and his governing body, of which Aldous was one. The affair was difficult, personal, odious. To have wasted nearly three hours upon it was, to a man of Aldous's type, to have lost a day.

At the same time she had her rights with them. She was at any rate their natural guardian in those matters, relating to womankind, where men are confessedly given to folly. She had accordingly kept a shrewd eye in Aldous's interest on all the young ladies of the neighbourhood for many years past; knew perfectly well all that he might have done, and sighed over all that he had so far left undone.

It came across her that for some time past he had made no further advances to her; that his first eager talk of friendship between himself and her had dropped; that his acceptance of her into his world and Aldous's was somehow suspended in abeyance. She bit her lip tightly and hurried Aldous along.

Aldous's temper was despondently critical towards the majority of these, perhaps; he had, constitutionally, little of that poet's sympathy with the crowd, as such, which had given Hallin his power. But, at any rate, they filled the human stage these men and movements and his mind as a beholder.

Then Hallin suffered a sudden sharp spasm of anguish and of struggle. Three words to say only three words; but those he must say! He tried again, but Aldous's dumb grief still sat motionless. Then the thought leapt in the ebbing sense, "Speech is gone; I shall speak no more!" It brought with it a stab, a quick revolt.

How full I was of it! the Church that was to be the people reflecting their life, their differences governed by them growing with them. You wouldn't join it, Aldous our poor little Association!" Aldous's strong lip quivered. "Let me think of something I did join in," he said. Hallin's look shone on him with a wonderful affection. "Was there anything else you didn't help in? I don't remember it.

She was tired and over-excited, and the contrast between the atmosphere of flattery and consideration which surrounded her in Aldous's company, in the village, or at the Winterbournes, and this tone which her mother so often took with her when they were alone, was at the moment hardly to be endured. Mrs. Boyce looked up more gravely. "You misunderstand me, my dear," she said quietly.

Every word in his few sentences, as they stood talking by the fire, bore on it for a practised ear the signs of a long wrestle of the heart. But to Marcella it sounded tame; her ear was haunted by the fragments of another tune which she seemed to be perpetually trying to recall and piece together. Aldous's slow minor made her impatient.