My dear Agnes,” he cried, before he had more than entered the room. “My dear Agnes. I only heard this afternoon of the heroic way you behaved on that day—that terrible day when those fools made the run upon the bank. I have come to thank you. Why on earth I was not told of that incident the day I arrived, I am at a loss to know. I don't think that the bank can boast of much intelligence. At any rate, I know now that you saved us—you saved us from—well, the cashier says the doors of the bank would have been closed inside half an hour if you had not appeared so opportunely. How can I ever thank you sufficiently?” She looked at him. He failed to notice within her eyes a strange light. He could not know that she had heard nothing of his speech.

“Yes, I repeat that we owe all to you,” he went on. “I'm sure that poor Dick felt it deeply. And Sir Percival Hope—it was his cheque, the cashier told me; and yet he didn't say a word to me about it when I called upon him a few days ago. But how on earth did you raise the money? Perhaps—I don't know—should I congratulate you—and him? Yes, certainly, and him.”

“I beg your pardon,” she said. “I was wondering—ah, these things sometimes do occur—I mean—Is it possible that you intend to remain at the Court during the winter? Surely your doctors will not allow it. You will go abroad.”

“I see that you evade my question,” said he, with a laugh. “There is no reason why you should do so. I think Hope a very good chap, especially since I have heard that it was his cheque. And I said in my letters to Dick that I supposed you had got married long ago.”

“I'm afraid that I have not been paying sufficient attention to what you are saying. Sir Percival Hope?—you mentioned Sir Percival,” said Agnes.

“Heavens! I have been wasting my compliments—you have been thinking of something else.”

“I wonder if you have learned to forgive as well as to forget,” said she.

“What on earth do you mean?” he cried. “You are a trifle distraite, are you not? What has forgiving or forgetting to do with what I have been saying?”

“The wretched man—I was thinking of him. You have forgotten a good deal of the past that others have remembered, but forgiveness—that is different.”

“Do you mean to ask me if my feelings are unchanged in respect of that ruffian—that wretch who killed the best man that ever lived in the world? If that is your question I can answer you. I stand here and tell you that no night passes without my cursing him and all that belongs to him. If he has a brother—if he has a wife—if he has a child—may they all suffer what”—

“No, no, no, no; for God's sake, don't say those words, Claude. You do not know what they mean. You cannot know.”

She had sprung from her chair and had caught the hand which he had clenched fiercely as he spoke.

“You cannot tell who it is that you are cursing,” she said imploringly. “No one can tell. He may have a wife—a child—would you have them suffer for the crime of their father?”

“I would have them suffer. It is not I, but God, who said 'unto the third and fourth generation.' I am on the side of God.”

“And this is the man whom I once loved!”

He started as she flung his hand from her—the fingers were still bent—and walked across the room, striking her palms together passionately.

He started. There was a pause before he said slowly and not without tenderness—the tenderness of the sentimentalist, not the lover:

“How young we both were in those days! I'm sure we both believed most fervently that we were in love. Alas! alas! But in affairs like these the statute of limitations is automatic in its working. Nature has decreed, so we are told, that in the course of seven years every particle of that work which we call man becomes dissolved; so that nothing whatever of the man whom we see to-day is a survival of the man whom we knew seven years ago.”

“Ah, that is true—so much we know to be true,” she cried, and in her voice there was a note of tenderness.

She looked across the room and saw that his eyes were not turned toward her. They were turned toward the window. She saw that he was staring into the garden, and on his face there was an expression of surprise, mingled with doubt.

She took a few steps to one side, and her hand made a little spasmodic grasp for the curtain, when she had seen all that he saw.

Out there a charming picture presented itself against a background of bare trees, and a blue autumn sky from which the sun had just departed. A tall girl, wearing a white dress and crowned with shining golden hair, stood on the grass, while above and around her and at her feet scores of pigeons flew and circled and strutted. She was encircled with moving plumage—snow-white, delicate mauve, slate blue—some trembling poised about her head, some with their wings drawn up as they were in the act of alighting, others curving in front of her, and now and again letting themselves drop daintily upon her shoulders, and perching upon the finger which she held out to them. All the time she was laughing and crooning to them in a musical tone.

That was the scene which he was watching eagerly, as he gazed through the window, quite oblivious of the tact that Agnes was watching him breathlessly.

“Merciful heaven!” she heard him whisper. “Merciful heaven!”

She gave a little gasp. There was a silence in the room. Outside there was a laugh and the strange croon of the girl.

He turned to Agnes.

“Who is that girl?” he asked.

She affected not to understand his question. She raised her eyes, saying:

“Girl? What girl?”

“There—outside—on the lawn.”

“Oh, Miss Tristram—have you seen her before?”

“Have I seen—how does she come to be here? Ah, I need not ask you. You heard me speak of her and invited her here. You are so good. Did you tell her that I was in this part of the country? I do not think that I ever mentioned that my home was in Brackenshire.”

The expression of surprise which had been on his face became one of pleasure.

She watched him dumbly, as he unfastened the latch of the window and opened one of the leaves. She saw Clare turn round at the click of the latch, and glance toward the window. She saw the look of surprise that had been on Claude's face come to Clare's as she stood there in the midst of the wheeling birds. The pause lasted only a few seconds; it was broken by the laugh of the girl as she went to the window.

He stepped out to meet her with outstretched hand, and the girl laughed again.

Agnes fell back against the tapestry curtain clutching it with each hand, and staring across the empty room.

“My God! he knows her—he knows her.”

One of her hands went down instinctively to the pocket into which she had thrust the letter brought by Clare. She kept her hand over it as though she were trying to hold it back from some one who wanted to get it. That was her attitude while she listened to the surprised greeting of the girl by Claude. He was saying that they had not been parted for long—certainly not so long as Clare—he called her Clare quite trippingly—had predicted they should be; and Clare inquired of him if he knew Miss Mowbray. Was he also a guest in Miss Mowbray's house?

“Heavens!” he cried, “surely I mentioned in the course of one of my long chats aboard the old Andalusian that I lived near Brackenhurst.”

“Lived near Brackenhurst?” she said with a laugh. “Why, I was under the impression that you lived near Bettinviga, in the land of the Gakennas, beyond the great Smoke Falls of the Zambesi I hope I have improved in my pronunciation of the names. Oh no; you never said anything about Brackenshire. If you had done-so I should certainly have told you that I was going into that country also—that is, if I succeeded in inducing Miss Mowbray to receive me.”

The expression that Agnes's face had worn gradually passed away as she heard them chatting together making mutual explanations. She was able to loose her hands from the curtain that had supported her. She was even able to give a smile—a sort of smile—as she straightened herself and took a step free of the curtain and facing the window.

“Is it possible that you were fellow-passengers on the Andalusian she asked.

“I fancied that I had told you of meeting Clare and her friends aboard the steamer that took us on from Aden,” said he. “Yes, I feel certain that I told you how much better I felt for the sympathy they offered me.”

“You mentioned that, but you did not give me any names,” said Agnes. “Pray come back to the sphere of influence of the fire, Clare; you must learn not to trust our English climate too implicitly. How the pigeons have taken to you! You must have some charm for them.”

“We lived in Venice for two years, and the pigeons of St. Mark's became my greatest friends,” said the girl. “I used to feed them daily, and it was while feeding them that a dear old man, who loved them also, taught me how to talk to them. I could not resist the temptation of trying if the birds here understood the language, so I went out to them from the next room when I saw them on the lawn.”

“And I think you may assume that your experiment was a success,” said Agnes, closing the window when the girl had entered, followed by-Claude. “Do you know of any other charms to prevail upon other creatures?”

“Oh yes,” she cried: “a fakir whom I knew at Cairo taught me how to charm lizards. The first time we see any green lizards I will show you how to mesmerise them.”

“I'm afraid you'll not have quite so much practice here as you had in Egypt,” said Agnes. “Our green lizards are not plentiful. I will get you to impart to me your secret so far as the pigeons are concerned; I won't trouble you to teach me the incantation for the lizards. You joined the Andalusian at Suez, I suppose?”

“Yes; Colonel and Mrs. Adrian took charge of me on the voyage to England, and it was from their house in London I wrote to you,” replied Clare.

“Adrian and I had gone through a campaign together,” said Claude. “His face was the first that I recognised on my return to civilisation. I knew no one at Uganda, and at Zanzibar I avoided seeing any one, though the newspaper correspondents were very friendly; but Adrian was the first man I saw when I got aboard the steamer at the Red Sea. Seeing him made me feel old. I had left him a captain with about half-a-dozen between him and a majority. It appears that the frontier people had taken advantage of my enforced absence to get up a quarrel or two with their legitimate rulers who had annexed them a year or two before; and it only required a few accidents to give Adrian his command.”

“Colonel Adrian told us that Mr. W'estwood had been giving it as his opinion that it was very hard that he had not had an opportunity of distinguishing himself while the Colonel had been so fortunate,” laughed Clare, turning to Agnes.

“Did the newspaper men show any great desire to have an interview with your friend, Colonel Adrian?” said Agnes.

“If they had they would have learned something about the Chitralis and their ways,” said Claude. “I'm afraid that the people in England are slightly indifferent to the great question of the North-West frontier.”

Clare laughed, and Agnes perceived that he had been giving a little imitation of the Indian officer, who had become an authority on the great frontier question and could not understand how people at home refused to devote themselves to its study.

“Englishmen want to hear about nothing but Africa just now,” said Agnes. “They have come to regard Africa as an English colony.”

“And yet the greatest living explorer of Africa refuses to communicate a single paragraph to the newspapers in regard to his discoveries,” cried Clare. “I consider that a great shame; I hope you feel as strongly on the subject, my dear Miss Mowbray.”

“Mr. Westwood seems to have lost all his early ambition,” said Agnes.

“That is true,” said Claude, in a low voice. “I have lost my brother.”

Clare looked grave. Agnes glanced at the man. She wondered how it was possible that he could forget the words which he had spoken in that same room when she only had been there to hear them. “It is for you—it is for you,” he had cried. “It is for you I mean to go to Africa. I have set my heart upon winning a name that shall be in some degree worthy of you, my beloved!”

Those were the words which he had said to her while his arms were about her and her cheek rested on his shoulder. How was it possible that he could forget them? How could he now talk about having lost all his ambition? She was his ambition. He had gone forth to win a jewel of honour that should be worthy of her wearing, and he had returned, having snatched that jewel from the very hand of Death, but he had not laid it at her feet.

Still she was silent. She remembered what Sir Percival had said to her: it was left for her to win him back.

It was Clare who had the boldness to break the impressive silence that followed his pathetic phrase, “I have lost my brother.”

“You told me that he had ambition,” said she. “You told me that his ambition was your success, and yet you refuse to let the world know how you have succeeded.”

He looked at her for a few moments. Her face was slightly flushed by the force of the earnestness with which she had spoken.

“Perhaps,” he said, slowly, “perhaps my ambition may awake again one of these days. I saw some queer things. Sometimes, when I think of them—of the strange people—savages, but with a code and religious traditions precisely the same as those of the Hebrews—I feel that it might perhaps be well if I wrote something about them; but then, I feel—oh no, I can't bring myself to do anything now. I cannot do anything until”—

His face darkened. He walked away from her to the window. In an instant he called out in quite a different tone from that in which he had spoken:

“There are your pets still, Clare. They are waiting for you on the lawn.”

“I must send them back to their cote without delay,” said the girl “May I step outside for one moment, Miss Mowbray?”

“Only for a moment, my dear child. I am afraid that you place too much confidence in our English climate.”

He opened the window, and Clare stepped out among the pigeons that rose in a cloud to meet her. Claude followed her slowly.

Agnes watched them without leaving her seat. They stood side by side in the fading light.

“God help her! God help her!” said Agnes, in a low voice.

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