For a little time Madison stood there in his room, motionless, staring unseeingly before him—and then, as one awakening from a dream that had brought dismay and a torment too realistic to be thrown from him on the instant, his brain still a little blunted, he took up his hat mechanically, went out from the room, descended by the back stairs to the rear door of the hotel, and took the road to the Patriarch's cottage.

And as he walked in the freshness of the night, the restless turmoil of his soul that since early afternoon had brought him near to the verge of madness itself, that had robbed him of sane virility, that a moment since in his room had suddenly begun to lift from him even as the leaden clouds in the vault above him now were scattering, breaking, and through the rifts a moon-glint and the starlight came, passed from him utterly—and a strange calm, a strange joy, a strange sadness was upon him—and his brain for the first time in many hours was rational, keen—and he was master of himself again—and yet master of himself no more!

He smiled a little at the seeming paradox—smiled a little wistfully. He was beaten—by the game—he had won. How strange it was that sense of more than resignation now—a sense that seemed like one of thankfulness—a sense that bade him fling wide his arms as though suddenly they had been loosed from bondage and he was free, free as the God-given air around him.

He could understand Helena, and the Flopper, and Pale Face Harry now. With them it had come slowly, in a gradual concatenation, a progression, as it were, that had worked upon them, molding them, changing them day by day—and he had been too blind to see, or, seeing, had measured the changes only by a standard as false as all his life had been false. With him it had come in a crash, unheralded, that had left him a naked, quivering, stricken thing to know madness, terror and despair, to taste of emotions that had sickened the soul itself.

On Madison walked—along the road, across the little bridge, into the wagon track where, under the arched branches, it was utter dark. There was no one upon the road—he passed no one—saw no one—he was alone.

He had lost Helena—but he understood her now—understood the depth of remorse that she was living through, the terror and the dread as she sought escape, the fear of him—yes, it would be fear now where once it had been love! He had lost Helena—that was the price he had paid—but he understood her now, and he was going to her to help her if he could, going to tell her that he, too, was changed—as she was changed.

His hands clenched suddenly. God, the misery, the hopelessness, the wreck and ruin that lay at his door! And amends—what amends could he make—it was too late for that! How clearly he saw now—when it was too late! Her life was a broken thing, robbed, stripped and despoiled for all the years to come. Their love had not been love—she had given it its name—"passion, vice, lust, sin, degradation and misery and shame." And then love had come to her, into her life, love as God had meant love to be, and she had learned what love was she had said—only that she might never know its fulness, only that it might bring her added bitterness and added sorrow! Thornton had asked her to marry him that night—and she had refused him—because the past, it must have been as a shuddering, hideous phantom that the past had risen before her, had left her no other thing to do but turn away. It seemed he could see her—see her bury her face in her hands and—

He stopped short in his walk. Was he changed so much as this! Did he care so much that it was her happiness—even with another—that counted most! Yes; it was true—he was changed indeed. And the change had brought him too, it seemed, to learn what love was—too late.

He went forward again—a little more slowly; now; a sadness upon him, but, through the sadness, an uplift from that new sense of freedom that was as a balm, soothing him in the most curious way. His had been a rude awakening—mind and body and soul had been torn asunder; but he knew now, as he recalled the hours just past when he had looked on fear, when the gamut of human passion had raged over him, when he had stood staggered and appalled before, yes, before his God, that he had come forth a new man. And how strange had been the ending, how strange and simple, and yet how significant, typifying the broad, clean outlook on life, bringing coherency to his tottering mind, had been those words of Thornton's—"because he loved her."

He had reached the end of the wagon track now, and he walked across the lawn, his steps noiseless on the velvet sward, and passed between the maples; and the moon gleam—for the flying clouds, rear-guard of the routed storm, were flung wide apart, dispersed—fell upon a coiled and huddled little figure all in white, that was quite still and motionless upon the rustic seat beside the porch.

She did not see him, did not hear him, until he stood before her and called her name.

"Helena!" he said unsteadily. "Helena!"

She raised her head and looked at him; and then she rose from the bench, and, still holding to it by one hand, drew back a little. There was no outcry, no startled action. Her dark eyes played questioningly upon him—and he could see that they were wet with tears, and that the face from out of which they looked was very white.

"Why have you come back here to-night?" she asked in a low tone; and then, suddenly, a fear, a terror in her voice, as the Flopper's warning flashed upon her: "Thornton—you have seen Thornton?"

"Yes," he said, surprised a little that she should know; "I saw Thornton a few minutes ago."

She came toward him now and clutched his arm.

"What have you done?" she cried tensely. "Answer me! You—you met him on your way here?"

It was a moment before Madison replied. He had schooled himself of course for more than this, yet the words hurt—that was why she had asked for Thornton—she was afraid that he had harmed the man.

"No," he said; "I did not meet him. I think you must have been longer here on that bench than you imagined—haven't you? He came to my room."

"Your room! What for? Tell me!"

Madison smiled with grave whimsicality.

"To call me a gentleman and repose a trust."

She stepped back again, uncertainly.

"I do not know what you are talking about," she said in a strained way. "And you are talking very strangely."

"Yes," he said. "Everything is strange to-night. It is like a new world, and—and I have not found my way—yet."

She drew back still further.

"Are you mad?" she whispered.

"No," he answered. "Not now—that Is past."

She looked at him for a little time; and, her hands joined before her, her fingers locked and interlocked nervously.

"And—and Thornton?" she asked, at last.

"It was a trust," said Madison slowly; "but it was betrayed before it was given. He did not know—the game. He did not know what was between—you and me."

"No," she said—and the word came almost inaudibly.

"And so," he said, "I will tell you, for it cannot matter now in any case. He told me that he had asked you to marry him to-night—and that you had refused."

Madison paused, and swept his hand across his forehead—his voice somehow had suddenly grown hoarse, beyond control.

"Yes," she said—and reached again for the back of the bench, supporting herself against it.

"He is going away," Madison continued; "and he is to send more money here for the 'cause'—when I ask for it—only you are not to know, because you might be diffident about taking it after refusing him."

She stared at him numbly—there was no sarcasm in his words; in his tones only a sort of dreary monotony. She shivered a little—how cold it seemed! She did not quite grasp his words—and yet she shrank from them. And then her very soul seemed to cry out against them, to pit itself against their meaning, as their meaning surged upon her. And unconsciously she drew herself up, and the whiteness of her face fled before a rush of color.

"Oh, the shame of it!" she burst out. "The bitter shame of it! You shall not touch the money—do you hear! You shall not touch it! I—I thought that you had understood this afternoon. I am glad then that you have come to-night—if I must say more to make you understand. This is the end! I do not care what happens—the little I can do now to atone for what I have done, I am going to do. The game is at an end—you shall not touch another cent—and everything that we have taken goes back to those whom we have worse than robbed it from! You hear—you understand! I will cry it out in the town street if there is no other way—but it shall stop—it shall stop to-night"—she was panting, breathless, the little figure erect, outraged, quivering—and then suddenly the shoulders seemed to droop, the lips to tremble, and she was on her knees upon the grass beside the bench, and sobbing as a child.

"Helena!" Madison said hoarsely. "Helena! Listen! That is what I came for to-night—to find a way out for you, for us all, if I can."

The passionate outburst passed—and she was on her feet again, facing him.

"You are clever—clever!" she cried fiercely. "But you shall not play with me—you shall not trick me—I meant every word I said!"

But now Madison made no answer. The moonlight bathed them both in its clear, white radiance; and touched the sward, shading it to softest green; and the trees limned out like fairy things against the night; and the calm light flooded the little cottage with its hidden walls where the ivy and the creepers grew, and lingered over the trellises to drink the fragrance of the flowers that peeped out from their leafy beds. And upon Madison's face crept slowly the anguish that was in his soul—until it was mirrored there—until unconsciously it answered her where words would have been useless things. Like some white-robed, sorrowing angel, she seemed, as she stood there before him—the brown eyes full of shadow, troubled; the sweet face tear-splashed; the little figure in its simple muslin frock, pitiful in its brave defiance. And pure—just God, how pure she looked!—the brow stainless white under the mass of dark, coiled hair; the perfect throat of ivory. And—and the misery that was in every feature of her face, in every line of her poise—and he had brought her that—he had brought her to that—and now when he loved her as he might have loved her once and known her love in return, when his heart cried out for her, when she was all in life he cared for, she was gone from him, out of his life, and between them was a barrier he could never pass—a barrier of his own raising.

And so he made no answer, for indeed he had not heard her; but she was coming toward him now, her hands outstretched in a wondering way, wistfully, pleadingly, as though to hold back a refutation that would change the dawning light upon her face to dismay and grief again.

"It—it is true," she faltered. "It has come to you too—this change, this new life that has come to me. It is true—I can see it in your face."

"Yes; it is true," he answered, in a low voice.

"Thank God!" she whispered—and hid her face in her hands—and presently he heard her sob again.

A tiny cloud edged the moon, and the light faded, and it grew dark, and the darkness hid her; then softly, timidly almost it seemed, the radiance came creeping through the branches overhead again—and then he spoke.

"Helena," he said, steadying his voice with an effort, "you spoke of atonement a little while ago; but there is no atonement that I can make to you—nothing that I can do to change what I would give my soul to change. I know what it meant to you to send Thornton away to-night, for I love you now as you love him—I know why you did it, and—"

She was staring at him a little wildly—her hands pressed against her cheeks.

"Love—Thornton," she repeated in a sort of wondering way, a long pause between the words.

"Yes," he said gently; "I know. Have you forgotten what you told me this afternoon?—that you had learned—last night—what love was."

She shook her head.

"I do not love Thornton," she said in a monotone. "And yet it is true that through him I learned what love was, what it could be—don't you understand?"

Understand! No; it seemed that he could never understand! She did not love Thornton! And then, as some fiery cordial, the words seemed to whip through his veins, quickening the beat of his heart into wild, tumultuous throbbing. Yes, yes, he could understand—it was true—true—she did not love Thornton.

"Helena!" he cried—and stretched out his arms to her. "I thought, oh, God, I thought that I had lost you—Helena!"

But she did not move.

"What does it matter to you whether I love Thornton or not?" she said dully. "Does it change anything where you and I are concerned—does it change what I told you this afternoon—that I would not go back to that."

"To that! Ah, no!"—his voice rang dominant, vibrant, triumphant now. "Helena, don't you understand? We are to begin life again—in a new way, the true way, the only way. Don't you see—I love you!"

Still she did not move—but there was a great whiteness in her face, and in the whiteness a great light.

"You mean?"—her lips scarcely seemed to form the words.

"Yes!" he cried. "Yes; to make a home for you, to marry you if only you love me still, to live in God's own sight and hold you as a sacred gift—Helena! Helena!"—his arms went out to her again, and the yearning in his soul was in his voice—to crush her to him, to hold her in his arms, and hold her there where none should take her from him, to shield and guard her through the years to come, to live with her a life that seemed to break now in a vista of gladness, of glory, as the day-dawn breaks with its golden rays of God-given promise—the new life, perfect and pure and innocent—because he loved her. "Helena! Speak to me. Tell me that it is not too late—tell me that you love me too."

And then her eyes were raised to his, and they were wet—but there was love-light and a wondrous happiness shining through the tears.

"Helena!" he murmured brokenly—and swept her into his arms—and kissed the eyelids, lowered now, the hair, the white brow, the lips—kissed her, and held her there, her clinging arms about his neck, her face half hidden on his shoulder.

And so for a space they stood there—and there were no words to say, only the song in their hearts in deathless melody—but after a little time he held her from him, and lifted up her face that he might look his fill upon it.

"Helena," he said, "I cannot understand it all yet—it is as though it were born out of the sin and the darkness and the blackness of what is gone—as though here at this Shrine that we created in mockery and crime it was meant that you and I should save each other for each other. And yet this Shrine as we have made it is a thing of guilt, and it has brought us all, you and I, and Harry, and the Flopper to a new life."

She lay still for a moment in his arms—then her hand crept up and touched his forehead and smoothed back his hair.

"I do not quite know how to say it," she said a little timidly. "When you went away this afternoon, the Patriarch took me back into his room, and—and I knelt at his knees—and after a little while my mind seemed very calm and quiet—do you know what I mean? And I tried to think things out—and understand. And it seemed to come to me that there was a shrine everywhere if we would only look for it—that God has put a shrine in every heart, only we are so blind—that every one can make their own surroundings beautiful and good and true, no matter where they are, or how poor, or how rich—and if they live like that they must be good and true themselves."

"Yes," he said slowly; then, after a moment: "And faith too is very much like that."

"Only some need a sign," she said.

There was silence again, while her hand crept over his face and back to his forehead to smooth his hair once more—and then very gently she slipped out of his arms.

"What are we to do about—about everything here?" she asked soberly. "We are forgetting that in our own happiness. How are we going to return the money that we have taken?"

"I don't know yet," he answered. "I haven't thought much about it—but we'll manage somehow."

She shook her head.

"I've thought a great deal about it since yesterday—and I'm not so sure it is to be 'managed somehow'—and the more I've thought the more tangled and complicated it has become."

"Well, we'll untangle it to-morrow," said Madison, with a smile, "and—"

"No"—she touched his sleeve. "To-night. Let us do it now—to-night. I should be so happy then."

He smiled at her again, and drew her to him.

"But we ought to have Pale Face and the Flopper too, don't you think so?" he said.

"Of course," she said; "and so we will. The Flopper is here, and we can send him for Harry. It's early yet—not ten o'clock."

"All right," said Madison; "if you wish it. We'll go in then and get the Flopper."

And so they walked to the cottage door, and into the porch—but in the porch Madison held her for a moment, and lifted up her face again and looked into her eyes.

"My—wife," he whispered—and took her in his arms.

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