I came to him as he sat down at the table, and, laying my hand on his shoulder, asked simply, "Is it true?" He looked up at me with great kindness, and answered gently, "It is true. I guessed it as soon as you spoke of Cydaria. For Cydaria was the part in which she first gained the favour of the town, and that, taken with your description of her, gave me no room for doubt.
Barbara had seen her in the park at Hatchstead, seen her more than once, and more than once found sore offence in what she saw. There is wisdom in silence; I was learning that safety might lie in deceit. The anger under which I had suffered would be doubled if she knew that Cydaria was Nell and Nell Cydaria. Why should she know?
"Why, yes, if I had a guide, Simon," she whispered gleefully. "You could find the way, Cydaria, and your guide would be most " "Most charitably engaged. But then " She paused, drooping the corners of her mouth in sudden despondency. "But what then?" "Why then, Mistress Barbara would be alone." I hesitated. I glanced towards the house. I looked at Cydaria.
Yet there is a truth in it. Deny it, if you will. You are smiling, madame, while you deny. It was a golden summer's evening when I, to whom the golden world was all a hell, came by tryst to the park of Quinton Manor, there to bid Cydaria farewell. Mother and sisters had looked askance at me, the village gossiped, even the Vicar shook a kindly head.
"Poor Simon," she said softly. "Yet it is good for you, Simon. Some day you will be amused at this, Simon"; she spoke as though she were fifty years older than I. My answer lay not in words or arguments. I caught her in my arms and kissed her. She struggled, yet she laughed. It shot through my mind then that Barbara would neither have struggled nor laughed. But Cydaria laughed.
"Ah, of Cydaria," she echoed, with a little smile. But a moment later the full merriment of laughter broke out again on her face, and, drawing her hand away, she let me go, crying after me, "But you shall not forget, Simon. No, you shall not forget." There I left her, standing in the doorway of the inn, daring me to forget. And my brain seemed all whirling and swirling as I walked down the Lane.
I could forgive her for being all she now was. How could I forgive her for having been once my Cydaria? "Well, you must fight," said Darrell, "although it is not a good quarrel," and he shook my hand very kindly with a sigh of friendship. "Yes, I must fight," said I, "and after that if there be an after I must go to Whitehall." "To take up your commission?" he asked.
He looked at me a moment with some curiosity, but did not press me further; and, since we had begun to draw near London, I soon had my mind too full to allow me to think even of Cydaria. There is small profit in describing what every man can remember for himself his first sight of the greatest city in the world, with its endless houses and swarming people.
Yet here also I made vows of renunciation, concerning which there is nought to say but that, while very noble, they were in all likelihood most uncalled for. What would or could Cydaria be to me now? She flew at bigger game. She had flung me a kindly crumb of remembrance; she would think that we were well quit; nay, that I was overpaid for my bruised heart and dissipated illusion.
"To lay it down, Mr Darrell," said I with a touch of haughtiness. "You don't think that I could bear it, since it comes from such a source?" He pressed my hand, saying with a smile that seemed tender, "You're from the country. Not one in ten would quarrel with that here." "Yes, I'm from the country," said I. "It was in the country that I knew Cydaria."