The day had been one of untarnished midsummer splendor, and as the sun drew near to its setting, the glory of
the evening grew every moment more crystalline, more miraculous. Westward from St. Faith's the beechwood
which stretched for some miles toward the heathery upland beyond already cast its veil of clear shadow over
the red roofs of the village, but the spire of the gray church, over-topping all, still pointed a flaming orange
finger into the sky. The river Fawn, which runs below, lay in sheets of sky-reflected blue, and wound its
dreamy devious course round the edge of this wood, where a rough two-planked bridge crossed from the
bottom of the garden of the last house in the village, and communicated by means of a little wicker gate with
the wood itself. Then once out of the shadow of the wood the stream lay in flaming pools of the molten
crimson of the sunset, and lost itself in the haze of woodland distances.
This house at the end of the village stood outside the shadow, and the lawn which sloped down to the river
was still flecked with sunlight. Garden-beds of dazzling color lined its gravel walks, and down the middle of it
ran a brick pergola, half-hidden in clusters of rambler-rose and purple with starry clematis. At the bottom end
of it, between two of its pillars, was slung a hammock containing a shirt-sleeved figure.
The house itself lay somewhat remote from the rest of the village, and a footpath leading across two fields,
now tall and fragrant with hay, was its only communication with the high road. It was low-built, only two
stories in height, and like the garden, its walls were a mass of flowering roses. A narrow stone terrace ran
along the garden front, over which was stretched an awning, and on the terrace a young silent-footed
man-servant was busied with the laying of the table for dinner. He was neat-handed and quick with his job,
and having finished it he went back into the house, and reappeared again with a large rough bath-towel on his
arm. With this he went to the hammock in the pergola.
'Nearly eight, sir,' he said.
'Has Mr. Darcy come yet?' asked a voice from the hammock.
'If I'm not back when he comes, tell him that I'm just having a bathe before dinner.'
The servant went back to the house, and after a moment or two Frank Halton struggled to a sitting posture,
and slipped out on to the grass. He was of medium height and rather slender in build, but the supple ease and grace of his movements gave the impression of great physical strength: even his descent from the hammock
was not an awkward performance. His face and hands were of very dark complexion, either from constant
exposure to wind and sun, or, as his black hair and dark eyes tended to show, from some strain of southern
blood. His head was small, his face of an exquisite beauty of modeling, while the smoothness of its contour
would have led you to believe that he was a beardless lad still in his teens. But something, some look which
living and experience alone can give, seemed to contradict that, and finding yourself completely puzzled as to
his age, you would next moment probably cease to think about that, and only look at this glorious specimen of
young manhood with wondering satisfaction.
He was dressed as became the season and the heat, and wore only a shirt open at the neck, and a pair of
flannel trousers. His head, covered very thickly with a somewhat rebellious crop of short curly hair, was bare
as he strolled across the lawn to the bathing-place that lay below. Then for a moment there was silence, then
the sound of splashed and divided waters, and presently after, a great shout of ecstatic joy, as he swam
up-stream with the foamed water standing in a frill round his neck. Then after some five minutes of
limb-stretching struggle with the flood, he turned over on his back, and with arms thrown wide, floated
down-stream, ripple-cradled and inert. His eyes were shut, and between half-parted lips he talked gently to
'I am one with it,' he said to himself, 'the river and I, I and the river. The coolness and splash of it is I, and
the water-herbs that wave in it are I also. And my strength and my limbs are not mine but the river's. It is all
one, all one, dear Fawn.'