Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Women's Genre Fiction Project

A Spirit of Mirth, an electronic edition

by Peggy Webling [Webling, Peggy]

date: 1913
source publisher: Methuen & Co., Ltd.
collection: Genre Fiction

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CHAPTER XIII
IN THREE MONTHS

EUPHROSYNE'S meeting with Miss Sapio had taken place in mid-winter.

By the time the daffodils were burning in the small garden of Henry Revell's house, like pale yellow flames springing from beneath the swift feet of the Spring, all the world had changed for her. Even Little Gus was aware of the evolution of events. He took everything philosophically. A new adjective had lately seized upon his fancy. He said that all things were inevitable, from a thunder-storm to breaking a tea-cup. So when Mr Revell's illness became serious Little Gus consoled himself very successfully, but failed to console Phosie, by saying it was inevitable.

"It seems as if it was to be!" he said at intervals, with the kind intention of explaining his favourite word. "And when a thing is to be, why not say it's inevitable?" Little Gus appeared to find great satisfaction in the unanswerableness of his argument.

Jules Revell, for very different reasons, contemplated the probable death of his uncle with resignation. As a rule he was sympathetic with Phosie's anxiety, always asking the right questions and repeating the expected commonplaces, but the atmosphere of the quiet house affected his nerves.

He was irritable with Mrs Bird and Gus, even with Phosie herself on occasion, and could hardly conceal his inward impatience with Mr Revell. When a man is old | | 114 and ill, he argued, the least he can do is to die as quickly as possible for everybody's sake.

Phosie found him more oppressive than ever. There was never a repetition, or even a shadow, of the dark anger which she had seen in Jules on the day he burnt the photographs. He was more reserved than she had known him, almost secretive in his manner of coming and going. She had no idea of how he spent his life away from The Stroll.

The easy friendship of the days when he first appeared upon the scene changed between them to a feeling that was strained and provocative. It was in the air. Phosie saw how she affected him, against her own will, and knew that he loved her, but at the same time he was baffled, hurt, almost frightened by her absolute power of standing aloof.

Phosie possessed, without knowing it, not only the gift of right choice, but a nature which was wholly unswayed by another's passion. She could pity, she was responsive to all affection, but the sacred fire of her love was not to be easily kindled.

Jules loved her for the very qualities he would have destroyed, for while her personal beauty, the sole attraction in his eyes when first they met, captivated him as much as ever, he had grown insensibly to speculate, to ponder, over the secret of the charm of personality of which beauty itself is but one of many manifestations. But too essentially coarse-fibred to cherish what was best in his own nature, he called himself a fool during those weeks of indecision, little knowing that only in the reverence and hesitation of his attitude was he worthy to be called her lover.

Mr Revell had listened to the girl's description of her visit to Miss Sapio's house with pleasure and amusement. He had apparently taken some interest in the theatre in his young days, and told her lengthy stories of the success of Charles Matthews, Bucks tone, Helen Faucit, | | 115 and other worthies of the great Victorian days. He insisted on Phosie repeating her visit to her old friend, although she hated to leave him alone, and made her practise a dance, arranged by Miss Sapio and Addison, in his room.

Mr Revell, who had long suffered without complaint from a painful internal malady, lived the last months of his life in his own methodical, conscientious way.

Phosie wrote long letters, of which he dictated a part every day, to his old friends in France and Surrey. The old friend in Surrey, making a supreme effort, travelled all the way to London for the sake of passing a few hours in his company.

Phosie, who had long known him as the "My dear Herbert" of her guardian's correspondence, had hardly been prepared for quite such an old, old gentleman. He walked with two sticks and grumbled incessantly at a long-suffering, but evidently devoted, man-servant.

Dear Herbert and Mr Revell did not seem to agree on any subject they discussed. Phosie sat and wondered at their strange idea of affection, but when they parted she saw the glint of brightness that was not caused by petulance in the eyes of the irascible old gentleman from Surrey, and after seeing him out she found Mr Revell in a very calm and happy mood.

"Phosie dear," he said, taking the hand she laid on the arm of his chair, "I am very thankful to heaven for having given me a true friend like Herbert. He is the only man in the world with whom I have discussed all topics, all, without fear or reservation. On the face of it, that doesn't sound very much, but when you are older, Phosie, you will know—" he broke off, with a gentle smile. "No, you will never know, my little Phosie, but men like myself understand how difficult it is to overcome the limitations, the superstitions, the barriers between mind and mind. Yes, I am very thankful to Heaven for such a friend as Herbert."

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There were a few other visitors: Mr Revell's married sister, severe and elderly, who treated Phosie with becoming haughtiness; his lawyer, to whom Jules was almost too cordial and subservient, a new phase of his character over which Phosie pondered; three or four of his colleagues from the Museum; a distinguished politician, who snatched several hours from his crowded days to drive down to The Stroll to cheer an old friend; and a certain young nobleman, at whose father's house Mr Revell had occasionally visited.

He was an agreeable, simple youth, whose kindness to dear Mr Revell was encouraged by his agreeable, simple mother, little suspecting that the penniless, lowborn girl whom dear Mr Revell had befriended could have become, had she chosen, the young nobleman's wife.

Phosie, not liking him, did not tell her guardian about his proposal. She confided the incident to Miss Lily Parlow, at the house next door, and that young lady's amazement at the brilliance of the offer, and horror at its rejection, struck Phosie with equal amusement. She wished the opportunity had come to Lily instead. Lily would have made an adorable dolly of a countess!

For a little while, before the last harassing fortnight of Mr Revell's life, Euphrosyne and her guardian passed through a memorable time of companionship and perfect sympathy. They were drawn together by the bond of her gratitude and his need for human tenderness.

There was no sadness in those restful days; it seemed to Phosie as if all life, all interest, was centred in the room where he sat.

The world of action was shut out. She hardly noticed the dark presence of Jules. She had moved her bed into a little room next to Mr Revell's, to be within call at any hour. He liked her to read aloud as of old, and she often carried one or another of his art treasures to his side, to be handled and admired.

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He had made her a present of the quaint ring of turquoise hearts out of the locked drawer, and often lifted her hand to look at his gift, accompanying the action with a little compliment, for he believed that young ladies of Phosie's age expected and had a right to little compliments.

"You will soon be under the hammer, my friend!" Mr Revell would often say to a piece of pottery, as a kind of farewell, as he restored it to the girl's careful fingers.

He told her the old anecdotes with the old relish, seeming to forget the present in his recollection of the past. There was a startling change in his look and bearing during those quiet weeks. He shrunk into great age. The old-fashioned rings slipped off his fingers; his face was the colour of a faded sheet of white paper; his voice was thin and sounded far away; his eyes looked very blue and serene.

One day Phosie went into the room carrying a very beautiful medallion of St. Guistina in her two hands. It was the work of an Italian artist, whose cunning hand had long since returned to the dust from which it was created, but whose spirit lived in the undying beauty of his work. Henry Revell had found this treasure in a little shop in Florence, grimed with the dirt and dust of years. How often had Phosie heard him describe the joy of restoring the pure and lovely face to the light.

He looked at it silently for several minutes, then he turned to the living face of the young girl.

"Take it away, Phosie," he said; "let it be the last of the fine works of man for me to look upon. Do not bring anything else, my dear—never again."

She returned in a couple of minutes, and he spoke once more, as if finishing the speech he had begun.

"I have done with all these things. My work is over," he said.

Phosie laid her cheek against his shoulder and twisted | | 118 her fingers round his cold hand. They stayed so, silent, for a long time.

"I can't thank you! I can't speak of it!" she said softly. "But I shall never, never forget how you took us in, Gus and I, and what you have been to us all these years. My dearest! Oh, my dearest friend!"

Mr Revell pressed her fingers.

"Hush! Hush!" he whispered. "You mustn't cry like this. I have never seen you cry before. Hush, my child! You have done far more for me than I ever did for you. You have made this dull house a home. You brought in the sunshine with you on that summer morning three years ago. My little Euphrosyne—rightly named! The old gods have passed, but not our living faith in their heavenly attributes. Euphrosyne always imparted gentleness and grace to the lives of men. She does so still, always patient, always obliging, always amiable!"

His old-fashioned words, spoken in his old precise way, touched her deeply. He patted her shoulder and passed his hand over her hair.

"Just like a daughter!" he said. "My own little girl!"

Three weeks after he had spoken these words—the most loving that Phosie had ever heard from his lips—Henry Revell died.

Jules, who had had no affection for his uncle, at once assumed the position of master of the house.

Little Gus was frightened and subdued by the presence of death.

The faithful housekeeper became hysterical, her fits of laughter and tears being mingled with a not unpleasing sense of importance on the day of the funeral.

It was Phosie alone who grieved for her guardian, missed his step, and longed for the sound of the kind voice forever silent.

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