She had, of course, left her seat to shake hands with him, and when he had gone she did not sit down. She stood where he had left her, in the centre of the room, with her eyes turned listlessly toward the window. She watched him buttoning up his coat as he walked quickly down the drive. A breath of wind whisked and whirled about him the leaves that had fallen since morning.

Which was the dream—the man whom she seemed to see hurrying away from the house, or the man whom she seemed to see coming toward her amid the same whirling leaves, out from the same grey October landscape?

That was the form taken by her thoughts as she stood there. The landscape was precisely the same as it had been when she had awaited his coming to bid her good-bye before starting on his expedition. The same soft greyness was in the sky, the same skeleton trees stretched their gaunt arms out over the road; the sodden green of the grassy meadows, the great, bloom of the chrysanthemums that hid the garden walls, all were the same as they had been; but there was a man hurrying away on the road by which she had stood to watch his approach nine years before.

It seemed to her that she was having but another of the many dreams that had come to her of that man; yes, or was it the memory of a dream that returned to her at that moment—a dream of a devoted lover coming to hold her in his arms and to kiss her face before setting out on the expedition that was to bring honour to him—that was to give him a name of honour which she would share with him?

Which was the dream? Were both dreams? Had she passed her life in a dream, and had she only awakened now?

She drew her hand across her eyes and turned away from the window with an exclamation of impatience. But then she seated herself in front of the fire and bent forward, gazing into the glowing log that had burnt itself out in the grate.

Yes, she was awake now. She could look back and see clearly all that had taken place since she had had that dream of kissing a man and bidding him go forth and win a name for himself. She saw clearly that she had built up for herself the baseless fabric of a vision—that her life had been built upon a foundation no more substantial than air, and now she was sitting among its ruins.

She had lived with but one thought, with but one hope, ever before her, and that hope was to hear the footsteps of the man whom she loved, on the gravel of the drive down which he had gone after bidding her good-bye. Well, her hope had been realised. She had heard the sound of his feet coming to her—yes, and going from her. Heaven had answered her prayer—the one prayer which she had cried through all the years. She only asked to see him again; all the happiness to follow she took for granted.

And now she was seated gazing at the ashes of the log that had once been a tree—at the ashes of the love that had once been her life.

She was full of amazement. How had this wonderful thing come about? How was it that among all her thoughts of disaster, she had never taken account of the possibility of such a thing as the death of his love? His love had always seemed to her the one thing on earth which was certain. To have doubt of it would be as ridiculous as to question the likelihood of the light of the sun being quenched in darkness. Her faith had sustained her when nothing else had come to her aid.

And yet now she sat there looking into the ashes.

She was benumbed with astonishment; and what caused her most astonishment was her own selfpossession during the interview which she had just had with Claude Westwood. She marvelled how it was that she had sat in that chair quietly listening to him, while he boasted of his constancy—of his having remembered her name.

He could not understand what she meant when she said that the fact of his remembering her name was a proof that he had forgotten her. Surely he should have understood that she meant that he could not make such a reference to her as he had made in his postscript, unless he had forgotten what her nature was.

And yet, that one phrase which had been forced from her, was the solitary expression of the terrible thought that overwhelmed her—the thought that her life was laid in ashes. The reflection upon this marvellous calmness of hers amazed her.

She had heard of women finding themselves face to face with their perfidious lovers, and denouncing them in tragic tones. Was it possible that she was differently constituted from other women? Was ever woman so faithful to a man as she had been? And was not the unfaithfulness of the man in proportion to the fidelity of the woman? And yet she had been content to utter only that one sentence of reproach, and its meaning had been so obscure that he had failed to appreciate it!

The worst of it was that she felt in her heart no bitterness against him. She had no burning wish to reproach him for having made a ruin of her life. She had no fervid desire to be revenged upon him. She wondered if she was different from other women to whom revenge was dear. Had all the spirit—that womanly element which women call spirit—been crushed out of her by that antagonistic element known as constancy? Had her faith in that man made her faithless to her womanhood?

She failed to find an answer to any of these questions; and she went about her daily duties as she had always done, only with that feeling of numbness upon her heart.

But when night came, and her maid had left her with her freshly-brushed hair falling over her shoulders, she bent her head forward between the candles that were lighted on each side of her toilet glass. She turned over the masses of her hair, and saw the grey lines here and there among them. Then, and only then, her tears began to fall. They came silently, but irresistibly—not in a torrent of passion, but slowly, blinding her eyes, and causing all those pictures of the past which now came crowding before her, to be blurred.

It was a tear-blurred picture that she now saw of Claude Westwood as he had appeared before her eyes on the eve of his departure for Africa—that picture which she had cherished in her heart of hearts through the dreary years. She now failed to see in it any of the features of the man who had been with her that day speaking those wild words about the act of mercy which had been done in regard to the poor wretch who had been found guilty of the murder of Richard Westwood. She had noticed how his eyes had glared with the lust of blood in their depths, as he asked why the wretch had not been either hanged or set free—set free, so that he, Claude, might have a chance of killing him.

She shuddered, and covered her face with her hands, as if she were trying to shut out this new picture that came to take the place of the old. Was it her doom, she asked herself, to live for the rest of her days with this new picture ever before her eyes—this picture of the haggard, sun-scorched man, who had come back to civilisation with those deep eyes of his full of the blood-lust of the savage?

She picked up his portrait, which he had given her long ago, and which had been her sweetest consolation ever since. She had looked upon it and had kissed it the previous night—every night since he and she had parted. She looked at it now for a few moments.... With a cry she flung it on the floor and trampled upon it; she set her heel upon it, and ground the glass of the frame into the painted ivory.

“Wretch—wretch—wretch! Murderer of my youth!” she cried in a low voice, tremulous with passion. “As you have treated me, so shall I treat you. Thank God, I have recovered my womanhood! Thank God!”

She gave a laugh as she looked at the fragments at her feet But the second laugh which she gave was not a laugh, but a sob. In a torrent of tears she fell on her knees beside the shattered picture, moaning:

“My beloved! Oh, my beloved, forgive me! what have I said? What have I done? Oh, come back to me—come back to me, and we shall be so happy!”

Her tears fell on the fragments of ivory and glass as she gathered them off the floor. As she bent forward her hair fell upon them, hiding them from view. She gathered up all carefully and put every scrap she could find into a drawer, clasping her hands and crying once more:

“Forgive me—forgive me!”

She closed the drawer and fell on her knees, praying that he might be given back to her; but she stopped abruptly after she had repeated her imploration. “Give him back tome!” For the truth came upon her with a shock: it was not her heart that was uttering that imploration.

“Dead love lives nevermore;

No, not in heaven!”

That was what her heart was murmuring, while the vain repetition came from her lips:

“Give him back to me—give him back to me!” But before she had closed her eyes in sleep she had come to the conclusion that she had been somewhat unjust toward him. She felt that it was her wounded vanity which had caused her to be angry with him. She should have known that his first thought on returning to the house where he had lived with his brother, would be of his brother. She should have known that the reflection that he was for ever separated from the brother to whom he had ever been deeply attached, would take possession of him, excluding every other thought—even the thought that he had returned to be loved by her.

She felt that it should now be her duty to lead him back to her. So soon as the poignancy of his reflection that he was for ever separated from his brother had become less, he would turn to her for comfort, and he would be comforted. The memory of their old love would come back to him, and all the happiness to which she had looked forward for both of them would be theirs. Would it not be possible for them to gather up the fragments of their shattered love as she had gathered up the fragments of the picture she had broken?

Alas, the question which she asked herself failed to bring her happiness; for she knew that no hand could piece together the broken ivory which she had hidden away in her drawer; and still her heart kept moaning:

“Dead love lives nevermore;

No, not in heaven!”

The next morning her maid brought her among her letters one in a strange handwriting. It was signed “Clare Tristram.”

The name brought back to her long-distant memories of the girl bearing this name, who was to have married Agnes's uncle—her mother's brother, but who on the eve of the wedding, had fled with another man.

She recalled some of the incidents of the story, the most important being that she had been deprived of the privilege of wearing her bridesmaid's dress. She recollected that this had been a great grief to her; she had been about eleven years of age when that disappointment overtook her, and now she could not help recalling how, when she had been told by her mother that Clare Tristram had gone away to marry some one else, she had obligingly offered to wear the dress upon the occasion of Miss Tristram's wedding to somebody else, for she thought it would be a great pity that so lovely a dress should be locked up in a drawer.

The letter which she now found before her was not from this Clare Tristram, but from her daughter. Still it was signed Clare Tristram, and this fact set her thinking. She had never heard the name of the man whom the girl had actually married, and she had certainly never heard that the man was any relation to Clare Tristram.

“Dear Madam,—I write to you in great doubt and some fear,” the letter ran. “My mother, who died only two months ago at Cairo, where we have lived for several years, told me, a few days before the end came to her long illness, that I had no relations in the world, and no friends to whom she could entrust me after she was gone; but that she felt that you would accept the charge, if only to save me from her fate. These were the exact words of my dear mother, and I repeat them to you, because I think they may constitute some claim upon your pity, and I feel that I have only your pity to appeal to.

“My mother told me how she had done a cruel wrong to your mother's brother; but that act brought with it such a punishment as few women are called on to bear. The one for whom she forsook the noblest man in the world showed himself within a year of her marriage to be so bad that when he deserted her, she would not let me bear his name. She would not even let me know what that name was.

“Only a few days before her death I heard the pitiful story from her lips, and she told me to go to you, and entreat you to save me from the cruel fate that was hers. I ventured to ask her if she thought it likely that you would receive me, on the ground that she had done a great wrong to your relative; but she said, 'Agnes Mowbray's mother was my dearest friend and schoolfellow, and I know that her daughter will be as her mother was.'

“Dear Miss Mowbray, I venture to repeat to you the doubts which I expressed to my mother; and if you say to me that you do not wish to see me, I shall not trouble you further; nor indeed shall I pose as one who has been unjustly treated. I have sufficient money for my support, and besides, even if that were to come to an end, I can earn enough by my singing to keep myself comfortably—more than comfortably. The kind friends who took charge of me on the journey to England are quite willing that I should remain with them for an indefinite period. But I can do nothing except what my beloved mother desired me to do.

“That is why I write to you now, entreating you to reply to me. I hope you will.

“Clare Tristram.”

Agnes read this unexpected letter with mixed feelings. It had not much of a suppliant air about it. The writer seemed desirous only to place her in possession of the facts which had compelled her to write.

“Is this child sent by God to draw my thoughts away from myself?” she said as she laid down the letter. “Is the child coming to give me comfort in my sad hour?”

Before evening she had written to Clare Tristram asking her to come on a visit to The Knoll.

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