ANTEROS.

Strong god thou art the enemy of gods,
A hater of blind Eros and his joys,
Thy rule is bitter as the stinging rods
That scourge at Dian’s feast the Spartan boys;
Evil his soul who asks thine evil aid,
And in revenge such evil aid employs,
In sundering the hearts of youth and maid.

The Garsworth family was never a very prolific one, but the estates
had always descended in a direct line from father to son. Many a time
the race seemed to be on the point of extinction owing to the
representative being an only child, yet though the line dwindled down
to depending on one life alone for its continuity it never absolutely
died out. In the event of such a thing taking place it would have been
difficult to say who would have succeeded to the estates, as the
Garsworth family seemed to be averse to matrimony and their connection
with the county families was, to say the least, doubtful. Besides, as
there was no entail, the estates were completely at the disposal of
the head of the family for the time being, and he could will them to
whomsoever he pleased. As hitherto son had always succeeded father,
there had been no necessity for the exercise of such a power, but now
the sole representative of the race being unmarried he was at liberty
to use his own judgment in disposing of the estates.

In the opinion of right-minded people there could be very little doubt
as to who should succeed the Squire, for Una was the next of kin. She
was the only living representative of the younger branch of the
family, being the grand-daughter of the Squire’s aunt, and therefore
his second cousin. Miss Cassandra, although she constantly alluded to
Randal Garsworth as “my cousin,” was as a matter of fact only a
relation by marriage, being Una’s paternal aunt.

Una’s parents had died while she was a child and she had been brought
up by the kind-hearted though eccentric Miss Cassy, who sent her to
Germany in order to complete her education. Miss Cassandra, having an
income of three hundred a year, dwelt in London, where she was known
among a select society of well-born fossils who looked upon her as a
mere child. Una, having finished her education, came back to England
and took up her abode with Miss Cassy, and having an income of some
two hundred a year joined it to that of her aunt, and thus the two
women managed to live very comfortably in a small way.

On seeing Una’s beauty, however, Miss Cassandra had no intention that
she should live a dismal life in a smoky London suburb, without at
least one chance of seeing the gay world and marrying as befitted her
birth and loveliness, so she wrote to Squire Garsworth on the subject.
The old man sent in reply a gracious message that Una could come down
and stay at the Grange, and that he would not forget her in his will.
Miss Cassy, not knowing the idiosyncrasies of the recluse, saw in her
mind’s eye a hospitable country house full of joyous company, so
persuaded Una to accept the invitation, saying she herself would go
also. After some demur Squire Garsworth agreed to Miss Cassy coming,
and in due time, having broken up their London home, the two ladies
arrived at the Grange.

Their dismay was great at finding the sordid way in which the Squire
lived, and Miss Cassy would have promptly returned to London, only
Una, being touched by the loneliness of her kinsman, determined to
remain, persuading Miss Cassy to do likewise. So they lived quietly at
the Grange on the somewhat begrudged hospitality of the old man, their
own incomes obtaining for them any luxuries they might require, as
they certainly received nothing but the bare necessities of life from
their host.

In the mad pursuit of his delusion, Garsworth, in contrast to the
lavishness of his youth, had become absolutely penurious in his mode
of life. The large staff of servants necessary for such an immense
house as the Grange had been long ago dispensed with, and Patience
Allerby, assisted by Jellicks looked after the household, while the
stony Munks exercised a grim sovereignty over the exterior
arrangements. The Squire mostly lived in his own study, and Una, aided
by Miss Cassy, managed to make one room habitable for themselves, but
the rest of the house was given over to the rats and spiders, becoming
at last so lonely and eerie that Miss Cassy frequently declared it was
haunted.

Una having fallen in love with Reginald, was quite content in her
dreary exile, but Miss Cassy, used to the lively entertainments of the
fossilized society in London, longed to get away from the place, and
looked forward to the Squire dying with a certain ghastly eagerness,
as she thought Una would then come in for all the estates and they
could once more live London.

On the morning after the concert Miss Cassy and Una seated at a late
breakfast, were talking seriously about the unsettled health of the
Squire, who was now obviously breaking up.

“He’s about seventy-three now,” said Miss Cassy thoughtfully, “I’m
sure he can’t live long.

“My dear Aunty!” replied Una in a shocked tone, “how can you talk so?”

“Why not?” retorted Miss Cassy indignantly. “He’s not much use alive.
I’m sure he’d be more use dead.”

“Why?”

“Because you’d get his money and we could go back to dear London.”

“I don’t want his money,” said Una with great spirit, “and certainly
don’t care about speculating on cousin Garsworth’s death to gain it. I
wonder at your doing so, Aunt.”

“Well, I’m sure, Una,” whimpered Miss Cassy, producing her
handkerchief, “you are so odd–I only meant to say I’m tired of this
place–it is dull–now isn’t it? I need excitement, you know I need
excitement–and after me bringing you up. I always dressed you
beautifully–real lace–and kept you so clean. I always had your
nerves attended to–you blame me now–I want to see you rich–it isn’t
odd–wishing to see you rich, and I’m so dull here; really Una, you
are unkind–quite crushing–I’m only an ivy–oh, why wasn’t I married?
there’s nothing for one to cling to–you don’t want me to cling.”

“My dear Auntie,” said Una with a smile, “you are so sensitive.”

“Ivy,” sobbed Miss Cassy, “nerves–mother’s side–you’ve got none–so
very odd.”

“I don’t want you to think of the Squire dying, it won’t benefit me at
all.”

Miss Cassy removed her handkerchief and gasped:

“Quite ten thousand a year–he can’t take it away–you’re his only
relative–no one could be so odd as to leave it to a what’s-it’s-name
asylum or a cats’-home.”

“I don’t know whom he’ll leave the money to,” said Una deliberately.
“I certainly ought to get it, but you know the Squire’s delusion about
re-incarnation–you may depend his will is mixed up with the idea, how
I don’t know–but there will be some trouble at his death.”

“Such an idiot he is,” groaned Miss Cassy, “quite
eccentric–hereditary–I’ve seen it in you–bad blood you know–it’s
in all old families–our family was always sane.”

To prove which sanity Miss Cassy arose from the table to go to her
room, and placed the tea cosy on her head to protect her from cold.
The eccentric lady walked to the door talking in a broken fashion all
the time.

“I’m sure I don’t want his money–small income but sure–yes–but it’s
so dull–I love London–I can’t blossom here–I’m like a cabbage–in
Town I expand–such nice amusements–Madame Tussaud’s and the Crystal
Palace–so exciting–it’s food–food–oh, dear me, Dr. Nestley is this
you? how is my cousin? better?–so glad–it’s very odd, isn’t it? I
mean it’s not odd I’m glad–no–quite so–oh, you want to see Miss
Challoner–yes–good-bye just now,” and Miss Cassy, with the tea cosy
perched on her head, disappeared, leaving Nestley alone with Una.

The young man was not looking well, as his ruddy colour had given
place to an unhealthy paleness, his skin had a flaccid appearance and
his countenance wore an anxious, haggard expression. His eyes glanced
restlessly round the room looking at everything except Una, and he
moved his hands nervously. Even in his voice there was a change, for
in place of his former bold confident tones he now spoke in a low
hesitating manner.

“I just came to tell you the squire is better, Miss Challoner,” he
said in an agitated voice, keeping his eyes on the ground.

“It’s very good of you, doctor,” she replied courteously. “I hope he
will become quite strong again.”

“I’m afraid not, his body is worn out and has not strength enough to
resist disease–of course, now he has only a slight cold, but any
chance exposure may affect his lungs seriously and if pneumonia sets
in I’m afraid he will have no chance.”

“What is to be done?” she asked anxiously.

“I cannot do more than I have done, he must be kept quiet and warm.
I’ve persuaded him to take some strong soup which will do him good–in
fact I think his ascetic manner of living has had as much to do with
his ill-health as anything else.”

“I hope he will get well,” said Una earnestly, “if he would only
change his mode of life I’m sure he would get well.”

“Yes,” the young man answered absently, “of course, exactly,” he
hesitated a moment then burst out in despair, “Then I would have to go
away.”

Una looked at him surprised at his evident emotion.

“Of course we would be very sorry to lose you,” she said quietly, “but
you, no doubt, would be glad to get back to your home.”

“No–I would not,” he said passionately, coming a step nearer,
“because you would not be there.”

“I?”

Una Challoner rose to her feet in amazement at his words.

“I?” she repeated in a puzzled tone. “What have I to do with your
movements?”

“Everything,” said the unhappy young man with a gesture of despair.
“When I came here a short time since I was perfectly happy–I had
conquered all the evils and sorrow of my youth, and my life was a
pleasant one, but since I saw you all is changed. I can think of
nothing but you–morn, noon, and night, I see you before me–morn,
noon, and night, I only hear your voice.”

He looked at her defiantly and saw her standing silent and indignant
before him.

“Can’t you understand?” he burst out again rapidly. “I love you–I
love you! from the first moment I saw you I loved you–I want you to
be my wife, will you be my wife Una.”

Miss Challoner felt perplexed–this man had only known her a
fortnight, she had spoken very little to him, yet here he was asking
her to marry him in a vehement, masterful manner which roused within
her all the pride of womanhood.

“What you ask is impossible, Doctor Nestley,” she said coldly and
deliberately. “I have only known you a fortnight and–beyond this I am
ignorant of your life in every way. I never dreamed that you would
speak to me in this manner.”

“Then you don’t love me?” he cried in despair, “You cold perfection of
womanhood, you don’t love me?”

Una would have replied indignantly, but she began to see the nervous
excitable temperament of the young man and recognised that, being
under the influence of a strong emotion, he was not answerable for the
way in which he spoke.

“No,” she replied gently, “I cannot love you, Doctor Nestley–even if
I did, I could hardly respond to your passion after so short an
acquaintance; come, doctor, you have been worn out by your nightly
attendance on my cousin, you are not well and speak without thinking,
forget the words you have spoken and let things be as they were.”

It was a gracious thing of her to say, for, in spite of his evident
earnestness, she felt indignant at the manner in which he had spoken
to her.

“Things can never be as they were,” he replied dully. “I have seen you
and that has changed my whole life–is there no chance?”

“There is no chance,” she replied coldly, and turned away to intimate
the interview was over. Even as she did so, he sprang forward with a
fierce light in his eyes.

“You love another,” he hissed out between his clenched teeth.

Una turned on him in a dignified way with her eyes blazing with anger.

“How dare you speak to me in this manner?” she said wrathfully. “Do
not try my patience too far–I have given you an answer to the mad
words you spoke–now go.”

She pointed to the door with a commanding gesture and the young man
drooping his head on his breast, moved towards it.

“You don’t know what you are doing,” he said in a dreary voice. “You
are destroying my life; whatever evils now drag me down, it will be
your fault.”

“A cowardly speech,” she said in a clear, scornful voice; “because you
cannot get the toy you long for you speak like a child. I have nothing
to do with your life, if you yield to evil it will be through your own
weak will, not through any fault of mine–not a word,” she went on as
he was about to speak; “leave me at once and I will try and forget
what you have said.”

He tried to look her in the face, but seeing her standing tall and
straight as a young Greek maiden, with nothing but scorn and
condemnation in her eyes, he turned away with a sigh, and letting his
head fall on his breast walked slowly out of the room, careless of
what happened to him now that he had placed all his chances on the
casting of a die–and lost.