So soon as Phyllis Ayrton had returned home, she got a letter from Herbert Courtland, asking her if she would be good enough to grant him an interview. She replied at once that it would please her very much to see him on the following afternoon—she was going to Scotland with her father in a week, if Parliament had risen by that time.

He came to her. She was alone in the drawing room where she had always received him previously.

The servant had scarcely left the room before he had told her he had come to tell her that he loved her—to ask her if he might hope to have some of her love in return.

He had not seated himself, nor had she. They remained standing together in the middle of the room. He had not even retained her hand.

“Why have you come to me—to me?” she asked him. Her face was pale and her lips, when he had been speaking to her, were firmly set.

“I have come to you, not because I am worthy of the priceless gift of your love,” said he, “but because you have taught me not merely to love you—you have taught me what love itself is. You have saved my soul.”

“No, no! do not say that; it pains me,” she cried.

“I cannot but say it; it is the truth. You have saved me from a degradation such as you could not understand. Great God! how should I feel to-day if you had not come forward to save me?”

He walked away from her. He stood with his back turned to her, looking out of the window.

She remained where he had left her. She did not speak. Why should she speak?

He suddenly faced her once again. The expression upon his face astonished her. She had never before seen a man so completely in the power of a strong emotion. She saw him making the attempt to speak, but not succeeding for some time. Her heart was full of pity for him.

“You—you cannot understand,” he managed to say. “You cannot understand, and I cannot, I dare not, try to explain anything of the peril from which you snatched me. You know nothing of the baseness, the cruelty, of a man who allows himself to be swayed by his own passions. But you saved me—you saved me!”

“I thank God for that,” she said slowly. “But you must not come to me to ask me for my love. It is not to me you should come. It is for her who was ready to sacrifice everything for you. You must go to her when the time comes, not now—she has not recovered from her shock.”

“You know—she has told you?”

“I knew all that terrible story—that pitiful story—before I heard it from her lips.”

“And yet—yet—you could speak to me—you could be with me day after day?”

“Oh, I know what you would say! You would say that I led you on—that I gave you to believe that I loved you. That is what you would say, and it would be the truth. I made up my mind to lead you on; I gave you to understand that I cared for you. But I confess to you now that I did so because I hoped to save her. You see it was a plot on my part—the plot of one woman anxious to save her sister from destruction. I succeeded. Thank God for that—thank God for that!”

“You succeeded—you succeeded indeed.” He spoke slowly and in a low tone, his eyes fixed upon her burning face. “Yes, you led me on—you led me from earth to heaven. You saved her—you saved me. That is why I am here to-day.”

“Oh, it is not here you should be, Mr. Courtland.” She had turned quickly away from him with a gesture of impatience and had walked to the other end of the room. There was more than a suspicion of indignation in her voice. “You should be with the woman whom you loved; the woman who showed you how she loved you; the woman who was ready to give up everything—honor—husband—God—for you. Go to her—to her—when the numbness has passed away from her, and there is no barrier between you and her. That is all I have to say to you, Mr. Courtland.”

“Is it indeed all, Phyllis?” he said. “But you will let me speak to you. You will let me ask if Ella alone was ready to sacrifice herself? You say that you led me to love you in order to save her. How did you lead me on? By giving me to understand that you were not indifferent to me—that you had some love for me. Let me ask you if you were acting a lie at that time?”

“I wanted to save her.”

“And you succeeded. Were you acting a lie?”

She was silent.

“You were willing to save her?” he continued. “How did you mean to save her? Were you prepared to go to the length of marrying me when I had been led on to that point by you? Answer me, Phyllis.”

“I will not answer you, Mr. Courtland—you have no right to ask me to answer you. One terrible moment had changed all the conditions under which we were living. If she had been free,—as she is now,—do you fancy for a moment that I should have come between you—that I should have tried to lead you away from her? Well, then, surely you must see as clearly as I do at the present moment that now our relative positions are the same as they would have been some months ago, if Ella had been free—if she could have loved you without being guilty of a crime? Oh, Mr. Courtland do not ask me to humiliate myself further. Please go away. Ah, cannot you see that it would be impossible for me to act now as I might have acted before? Cannot you see that I am not a woman who would be ready to steal happiness for myself from my dearest friend?”

“I think I am beginning to see what sort of woman you are—what sort of a being a woman may be. You love me, Phyllis, and yet you will send me away from you lest you should do Ella a wrong?”

“I implore of you to go away from me, because if Ella had been free a month ago as she is to-day, she would have married you.”

“But she fancied that she loved me a month ago. She knows that she does not love me now. You love me—you, Phyllis, my love, my beloved; you dare not say that when you led me to love you, you were not led unthinkingly to love me yourself. Will you deny that, my darling?”

He had strode passionately up to her, and before she could resist he had put his arms about her and was kissing her on the face. For a moment only she resisted, then she submitted to his kisses.

“You are mine—mine—mine!” he whispered, and she knew that she was. She now knew how to account for the brilliant successes of the man in places where every other civilized man had perished. He was a master of men. “You love me, darling, and I love you. What shall separate us?”

With a little cry she freed herself.

“You have said the truth!” she cried; “the bitter truth. I love you! I love you! I love you! You are my love, my darling, my king forever. But I tell you to go from me. I tell you that I shall never steal from any sister what is hers by right. I would have sacrificed myself—I did not love you then—to keep you from her; I am now ready to sacrifice myself—now that I love you—to give you to her. Ah, my love, my own dear love, you know me, and you know that I should hate myself—that I should hate you, too, if I were to marry you, now that she is free. Go, my beloved—go!”

He looked at her face made beautiful with tears. “Let me plead with you, Phyllis. Let me say—”

“Oh, go! go! go!”

He put out his hand to her.

“I am going!” he said. “I am leaving England, but from day to day I shall let you know where I am, so that you can send to me when you want me to return to you. Write on a paper, ‘Come to me,’ and I will come, though years should pass before I read those words. I deserve to suffer, as I know I shall suffer.”

He held out his hand. She took it. Her tears fell upon it. She did not speak as he went to the door. Then she gave a cry like the cry of a wounded animal. She held out her hands to him.

“Not yet! Not yet!” she said.

She flung herself into his arms, kissing him and kissing him, holding him to her with her arms about his neck.

“Good-by! Good-by, my darling, my best beloved. Oh, go! Go, Herbert, before I die in your arms. Go!”

She was lying along the floor with her head on the sofa.

He was gone.

She looked wildly around the room, wiping the tears from her eyes. She sprang to her feet, crying:

“Come back! Come back to me, my beloved! Oh, I was a fool! Such a fool as women are when they think of such things as heaven and truth and right! A fool! A fool!”

An hour afterward Ella called to say good-by to her. She was going to Switzerland first, she said, to a quiet spot that she knew, where she might think out some of the details of the Church. Mr. Holland would meet her in Italy in the winter to consider some of the architectural details.

When the hour of her departure was at hand she referred to another matter—a matter on which she spoke much more seriously than she had yet spoken on the subject of the Church.

“I could not go, my dear Phyllis,” said she, “without telling you that I know Herbert Courtland will come to you.”

“No!” said Phyllis. “He will not come to me. He has been with me. He is now gone.”

“Gone? That would be impossible!” cried Ella. “You would not send him away. He told you that he loved you.”

“Yes, he told me that.”

“And yet you sent him away? Oh, Phyllis, you would not break my heart. I know that you love him.”

“Do I?”

“You do love him. Oh, my Phyllis, I told him months ago that it was the dearest wish of my heart to see you married to him. At that time he laughed. Oh, it is horrible to me to recall now how he laughed. Shall I ever forget that terrible dream? But now he loves you. I know it. What! you think him unworthy of you because of—of that dream which was upon us? Phyllis, don’t forget that he fought with the sin and overcame it. How? Ah! you know how. He overcame the passion that is of earth by the love that is of heaven. It was his pure love for you that gave him the victory. Why should you send him away?”

“He knows. He understands. He is gone.”

“But I do not understand.”

She held Phyllis’ hand and looked into her face. She gave a sudden start—a little start.

“Oh, surely, my Phyllis, you don’t think that I—I——Oh, no! you cannot think that of me. Oh, my darling, if you should be so foolish as to think that I—that I still——Ah, I cannot speak about it. Listen to me, Phyllis: I tell you that as he conquered himself by the love which is of heaven, so have I conquered by the same Divine Power. The love which is in heaven—the love which is mine—has given me the victory also. Dear Phyllis, that man is nothing to me to-day. I tell you he is nothing—nothing! Ah, I don’t even hate him. If I should ever speak to him again it would be to send him back to you.”

Phyllis said nothing, and just then her father came into the room, and after a few minutes’ conventional chat Ella went away.

Mr. Ayrton remarked to Phyllis that her dearest friend was looking better than she had looked for many months, and then he laughed. Phyllis did not like his laugh. She looked at him—gravely—reproachfully.

“Pardon me, my dear,” said he; “but I was only thinking that—well—that she——Ah, after all, what is marriage?”

Phyllis did not reply. She saw by his eyes that he had found another phrase. What were phrases to her?

“Marriage is the most honorable preliminary to an effective widowhood,” said he.

She went out of the room.

During the next eight months Phyllis received many letters from Ella—some from Switzerland, some from Italy, and one from Calcutta. Ella had gone to India to make further inquiries on the subject of Buddhism. At any rate, no one whose heart was set upon building up a New Church could afford, she said, to ignore Buddhism as a power.

Mr. Holland agreed with her, she said. He had gone through India with her.

She returned to England in April, and of course went to see Phyllis without delay. Some men had wanted to marry Phyllis during the winter, as everybody knew, but she had been pleasantly irresponsive. Some of her closest friends (female) laughed and said that she had found out how silly she had been in throwing over Mr. Holland.

It was not, however, of these suitors that Ella talked to her. It was of Herbert Courtland.

Had she heard from him? she asked.

Yes; he occasionally sent her his address, Phyllis said—that was all.

“You will write to him to come back to you, Phyllis?” said Ella entreatingly.

Phyllis shook her head.

“Dearest child,” continued Ella, “I know the goodness of your heart. I know the high ideal of honor and faith which you have set before you. I saw Herbert when our steamer stopped at Port Said. He had been in Abyssinia—you know that?”

“I knew that.”

“I talked with him for an hour,” said Ella. “He told me a great deal about you—about your parting from him. You will write those words to him before I leave this room.”

Phyllis shook her head.

“Oh, yes, you will, when I tell you what I did not tell him—when I tell you that George Holland and I have agreed that our positions as joint trustees of the New Church will be immeasurably strengthened if we are married.”


Phyllis had risen.

“We are to be married in three months. The matter is, of course, to remain a secret—people are so given to talk.”

Phyllis fell into her arms and kissed her tearfully—but the tears were not all her own.

“Now you will write those words,” said Ella.

Phyllis ran to a little French escritoire and snatched up a sheet of paper.

“Come to me, my beloved,” she wrote upon it; then she leaned her face upon her arm, weeping happily.

Ella came behind her. She picked up the paper and folded it up. She pressed the bell.

“Please give that to Mr. Courtland in the study,” she said to the servant.

Phyllis sprang up with a cry.

“I forgot to tell you, my dearest, that I brought back Herbert Courtland in that steamer with me, and that he came with me to-day. He is coming to you—listen—three steps at a time.”

And that was just how he did come to her.

“Bless my soul!” cried Mr. Ayrton, ten minutes later. “Bless my soul! I always fancied that——Ah, after all, what is marriage?”

“Oh!” cried Phyllis.

“The last word that can be said regarding it is that marriage is the picturesque gateway leading to the commonplace estate.”

“Oh!” cried Phyllis


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