... What he spake, though it lacked form a little,

Was not like madness. There's something in his soul

O'er which his melancholy sits on brood.

Purpose is but the slave to memory.

Most necessary 'tis that we forget.—Hamlet.

THE long level rays of the sun that was setting in crimson splendour were touching the bright leaves of the silver-fir grove on one side of the ravine traversing the slope of the great peaked hill which makes the highest point of Table Mountain, but the other side was shadowy. The flat face of the precipice beneath the long ridge of the mountain was full of fantastic gleams of red in its many crevices, and far away a thin waterfall seemed a shimmering band of satin floating downwards through a dark bed of rocks. Table Bay was lying silent and with hardly' a sparkle upon its ripples from where the outline of Robbin Island was seen at one arm of its crescent to the white sand of the opposite shore. The vineyards of the lower slope, beneath which the red road crawled, were dim and colourless, for the sunset bands had passed away from them and flared only upon the higher slopes.

Upon the summit of the ridge of the silver-fir ravine Daireen Gerald sat looking out to where the sun was losing itself among the ridges of the distant kloof, and at her feet was Oswin Markham. Behind them rose the rocks of the Peak with their dark green herbage. Beneath them the soft rustle of a songless bird was heard through the foliage.

But it remains to be told how those two persons came to be watching together the phenomenon of sunset from the slope.

It was Mrs. Crawford who had upon the very day after the departure of Arthur Harwood organised one of those little luncheon parties which are so easily organised and give promise of pleasures so abundant. She had expressed to Mr. Harwood the grief she felt at his being compelled by duty to depart from the midst of their circle, just as she had said to Mr. Markham how bowed down she had been at the reflection of his leaving the steamer at St. Helena; and Harwood had thanked her for her kind expressions, and made a mental resolve that he would say something sarcastic regarding the Army Boot Commission in his next communication to the Dominant Trumpeter. But the hearing of the gun of the mail steamer that was to convey the special correspondent to Natal was the pleasantest sensation Mrs. Crawford had experienced for long. She had been very anxious on Harwood's account for some time. She did not by any means think highly of the arrangement which had been made by Colonel Gerald to secure for one of his horses an amount of exercise by allowing Mr. Harwood to ride it; for she was well aware that Mr. Harwood would think it quite within the line of his duty to exercise the animal at times when Miss Gerald would be riding out. She knew that most girls liked Mr. Harwood, and whatever might be Mr. Harwood's feelings towards the race that so complimented him, she could not doubt that he admired to a perilous point the daughter of Colonel Gerald. If, then, the girl would return his feeling, what would become of Mrs. Crawford's hopes for Mr. Glaston?

It was the constant reflection upon this question that caused the sound of the mail gun to fall gratefully upon the ears of the major's wife. Harwood was to be away for more than a month at any rate, and in a month much might be accomplished, not merely by a special correspondent, but by a lady with a resolute mind and a strategical training. So she had set her mind to work, and without delay had organised what gave promise of being a delightful little lunch, issuing half a dozen invitations only three days in advance.

Mr. Algernon Glaston had, after some persuasion, promised to join the party. Colonel Gerald and his daughter expressed the happiness they would have at being present, and Mr. Standish Macnamara felt certain that nothing could interfere with his delight. Then there were the two daughters of a member of the Legislative Council who were reported to look with fond eyes upon the son of one of the justices of the Supreme Court, a young gentleman who was also invited. Lastly, by what Mrs. Crawford considered a stroke of real constructive ability, Mr. Oswin Markham and Miss Lottie Vincent were also begged to allow themselves to be added to the number of the party. Mrs. Crawford disliked Lottie, but that was no reason why Lottie should not exercise the tactics Mrs. Crawford knew she possessed, to take care of Mr. Oswin Markham for the day.

They would have much to talk about regarding the projected dramatic entertainment of the young lady, so that Mr. Glaston should be left solitary in that delightful listless after-space of lunch, unless indeed—and the contingency was, it must be confessed, suggested to the lady—Miss Gerald might chance to remain behind the rest of the party; in that case it would not seem beyond the bounds of possibility that the weight of Mr. Glaston's loneliness would be endurable.

Everything had been carried out with that perfect skill which can be gained only by experience. The party had driven from Mowbray for a considerable way up the hill. The hampers had been unpacked and the lunch partaken of in a shady nook which was supposed to be free from the venomous reptiles that make picnics somewhat risky enjoyments in sunny lands; and then the young people had trooped away to gather Venus-hair ferns at the waterfall, or silver leaves from the grove, or bronze-green lizards, or some others of the offspring of nature which have come into existence solely to meet the requirements of collectors. Mr. Glaston and Daireen followed more leisurely, and Mrs. Crawford's heart was happy. The sun would be setting in an hour, she reflected, and she had great confidence in the effect of fine sunsets upon the hearts of lovers—. nay, upon the raw material that might after a time develop into the hearts of lovers. She was quite satisfied seeing the young people depart, for she was not aware how much more pleasant than Oswin Markham Lottie Vincent had found Mr. Glaston at that judge's dinner-party a few evenings previous, nor how much more plastic than Miss Gerald Mr. Glaston had found Lottie Vincent upon the same occasion.

Mrs. Crawford did not think it possible that Lottie could be so clever, even if she had had the inclination, as to effect the separation of the party as it had been arranged. But Lottie had by a little manouvre waited at the head of the ravine until Mr. Glaston and Daireen had come up, and then she had got into conversation with Mr. Glaston upon a subject that was a blank to the others, so that they had walked quietly on together until that pleasant space at the head of the ravine was reached. There Daireen had seated herself to watch the west become crimson with sunset, and at her feet Oswin had cast himself to watch her face.

Had Mrs. Crawford been aware of this, she would scarcely perhaps have been so pleasant to her friend Colonel Gerald, or to her husband far down on the slope.

It was very silent at the head of that ravine. The delicate splash of the water that trickled through the rocks far away was distinctly heard. The rosy bands that had been about the edges of the silver leaves had passed off. Daireen's face was at last left in shadow, and she turned to watch the rays move upwards, until soon only the dark Peak was enwound in the red light that made its forehead like the brows of an ancient Bacchanal encircled with a rose-wreath. Then quickly the red dwindled away, until only a single rose-leaf was upon the highest point; an instant more and it had passed, leaving the hill dark and grim in outline against the pale blue.

Then succeeded that time of silent conflict between light and darkness—a time of silence and of wonder.

Upon the slope of the Peak it was silent enough. The girl's eyes went out across the shadowy plain below to where the water was shining in its own gray light, but she uttered not a word. The man leant his head upon his hand as he looked up to her face.

“What is the 'Ave' you are breathing to the sunset, Miss Gerald?” he said at length, and she gave a little start and looked at him. “What is the vesper hymn your heart has been singing all this time?”

She laughed. “No hymn, no song.”

“I saw it upon your face,” he said. “I saw its melody in your eyes; and yet—yet I cannot understand it—I am too gross to be able to translate it. I suppose if a man had sensitive hearing the wind upon the blades of grass would make good music to him, but most people are dull to everything but the rolling of barrels and such-like music.”

“I had not even a musical thought,” said the girl. “I am afraid that if all I thought were translated into words, the result would be a jumble: you know what that means.”

“Yes. Heaven is a jumble, isn't it? A bit of wonderful blue here, and a shapeless cloud there—a few faint breaths of music floating about a place of green, and an odour of a field of flowers. Yes, all dreams are jumbles.”

“And I was dreaming?” she said. “Yes, I dare say my confusion of thought without a single idea may be called by courtesy a dream.”

“And now have you awakened?”

“Dreams must break and dissolve some time, I suppose, Mr. Markham.”

“They must, they must,” he said. “I wonder when will my awaking come.”

“Have you a dream?” she asked, with a laugh.

“I am living one,” he answered.

“Living one?”

“Living one. My life has become a dream to me. How am I beside you? How is it possible that I could be beside you? Either of two things must be a dream—either my past life is a dream, or I am living one in this life.”

“Is there so vast a difference between them?” she asked, looking at him. His eyes were turned away from her.

“Vast? Vast?” he repeated musingly. Then he rose to his feet and looked out oceanwards. “I don't know what is vast,” he said. Then he looked down to her. “Miss Gerald, I don't believe that my recollection of my past is in the least correct. My memory is a falsehood utterly. For it is quite impossible that this body of mine—this soul of mine—could have passed through such a change as I must have passed through if my memory has got anything of truth in it. My God! my God! The recollections that come to me are, I know, impossible.”

“I don't understand you, Mr. Markham,” said Daireen.

Once more he threw himself on the short tawny herbage beside her.

“Have you not heard of men being dragged back when they have taken a step beyond the barrier that hangs between life and death—men who have had one foot within the territory of death?”

“I have heard of that.”

“And you know it is not the same old life that a man leads when he is brought from that dominion of death. He begins life anew. He knows nothing of the past. He laughs at the faces that were once familiar to him; they mean nothing to him. His past is dead. Think of me, child. Day by day I suffered all the agonies of death and hell, and shall I not have granted to me that most righteous gift of God? Shall not my past be utterly blotted out? Yes, these vague memories that I have are the memories of a dream. God has not been so just to me as to others, for there are some realities of the past still with me I know, and thus I am at times led to think it might be possible that all my recollections are true—but no, it is impossible—utterly impossible.” Again he leapt to his feet and clasped his hands over his head. “Child—child, if you knew all, you would pity me,” he said, in a tone no louder than a whisper.

She had never heard anything so pitiful before. Seeing the agony of the man, and hearing him trying to convince himself of that at which his reason rebelled, was terribly pitiful to her. She never before that moment knew how she felt towards this man to whom she had given life.

“What can I say of comfort to you?” she said. “You have all the sympathy of my heart. Why will you not ask me to help you? What is my pity?”

He knelt beside her. “Be near me,” he said. “Let me look at you now. Is there not a bond between us?—such a bond as binds man to his God? You gave me my life as a gift, and it will be a true life now. God had no pity for me, but you have more than given me your pity. The life you have given me is better than the life given me by God.”

“Do not say that,” she said. “Do not think that I have given you anything. It is your God who has changed you through those days of terrible suffering.”

“Yes, the suffering is God's gift,” he cried bitterly. “Torture of days and nights, and then not utter forgetfulness. After passing through the barrier of death, I am denied the blessings that should come with death.”

“Why should you wish to forget anything of the past?” she asked. “Has everything been so very terrible to you?”

“Terrible?” he said, clasping his hands over one of his knees and gazing out to the conflict of purple and shell-pink in the west. “No, nothing was terrible. I am no Corsair with a hundred romantic crimes to give me so much remorseful agony as would enable me to act the part of Count Lara with consistency. I am no Lucifer encircled with a halo of splendid wickedness. It is only the change that has passed over me since I felt myself looking at you that gives me this agony of thought. Wasted time is my only sin—hours cast aside—years trampled upon. I lived for myself as I had a chance—as thousands of others do, and it did not seem to me anything terrible that I should make my father's days miserable to him. I did not feel myself to be the curse to him that I now know myself to have been. I was a curse to him. He had only myself in the world—no other son, and yet I could leave him to die alone—yes, and to die offering me his forgiveness—offering it when it was not in my power to refuse to accept it. This is the memory that God will not take away. Nay, I tell you it seems that instead of being blotted out by my days of suffering it is but intensified.”

He had bowed down his face upon his hands as he sat there. Her eyes were full of tears of sympathy and compassion—she felt with him, and his sufferings were hers.

“I pity you—with all my soul I pity you,” she said, laying her hand upon his shoulder.

He turned and took her hand, holding it not with a fervent grasp; but in his face that looked up to her tearful eyes there was a passion of love and adoration.

“As a man looks to his God I look to you,” he said. “Be near me that the life you have given me may be good. Let me think of you, and the dead Past shall bury its dead.”

What answer could she make to him? The tears continued to come to her eyes as she sat while he looked into her face.

“You know,” she said—“you know I feel for you. You know that I understand you.”

“Not all,” he said slowly. “I am only beginning to understand myself; I have never done so in all my life hitherto.”

Then they watched the delicate shadowy dimness—not gray, but full of the softest azure—begin to swathe the world beneath them. The waters of the bay were reflecting the darkening sky, and out over the ocean horizon a single star was beginning to breathe through the blue.

“Daireen,” he said at length, “is the bond between us one of love?”

There was no passion in his voice, nor was his hand that held hers trembling as he spoke. She gave no start at his words, nor did she withdraw her hand. Through the silence the splash of the waterfall above them was heard clearly. She looked at him through the long pause.

“I do not know,” she said. “I cannot answer you yet——No, not yet—not yet.”

“I will not ask,” he said quietly. “Not yet—not yet.” And he dropped her hand.

Then he rose and looked out to that star, which was no longer smothered in the splendid blue of the heavens, but was glowing in passion until the waters beneath caught some of its rays.

There was a long pause before a voice sounded behind them on the slope—the musical voice of Miss Lottie Vincent.

“Did you ever see such a sentimental couple?” she cried, raising her hands with a very pretty expression of mock astonishment. “Watching the twilight as if you were sitting for your portraits, while here we have been searching for you over hill and dale. Have we not, Mr. Glaston?”

Mr. Glaston thought it unnecessary to corroborate a statement made with such evident ingenuousness.

“Well, your search met with its reward, I hope, Miss Vincent,” said Oswin.

“What, in finding you?”

“I am not so vain as to fancy it possible that you should accept that as a reward, Miss Vincent,” he replied.

The young lady gave him a glance that was meant to read his inmost soul. Then she laughed.

“We must really hasten back to good Mamma Crawford,” she said, with a seriousness that seemed more frivolous than her frivolity. “Every one will be wondering where we have been.”

“Lucky that you will be able to tell them,” remarked Oswin.

“How?” she said quickly, almost apprehensively.

“Why, you know you can say 'Over hill, over dale,' and so satisfy even the most sceptical in a moment.”

Miss Lottie made a little pause, then laughed again; she did not think it necessary to make any reply.

And so they all went down by the little track along the edge of the ravine, and the great Peak became darker above them as the twilight dwindled into evening.

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