“I think of you hour by hour. You are always close in your own secret place in my heart. I hold you in my arms when no one else is near. I kiss your forehead, your eyes, your hair. No, not your lips, dear, even in fancy. I have never in my maddest dreams kissed your lips. But I ache and crave and long for them, though—till you give me leave—I dare not even pretend that they are mine. Will you ever give me leave? You say No now. Yet I think you will, Avery. I think you will. I have known ever since that first moment when you held me back from flaying poor old Caesar that I have met my Fate, and because I know it I’m trying—for your sweet sake—to make myself a better man. It’s beastly uphill work, and that episode with Tudor has pulled me back. Confound him! By the way though, it’s done me good in one sense, for I find I don’t detest him quite so hideously as I did. The man has his points.
“And now Avery,—dear Avery, will you forgive me for writing all this? I know you won’t write to me, but I send my address in case! And I shall watch every mail day after day, night after night, for the letter that will never come.
“Pathetic picture, isn’t it? Good-bye!
“My love to the Queen of all good fairies, and tell Pixie that I hope the gloves fitted.”
Avery’s lips parted in a smile; a soft flush overspread her face. That costly gift from the children—she had guessed from the beginning whence it came.
And then slowly, even with reverence, she folded the letter up, and rose. Her smile became a little tremulous. It had been a day of many troubles, and she was very tired. The boy’s adoration was strangely sweet to her wearied senses. She felt subtly softened and tender towards him.
No, it must not be! It could not be! He must forget her. She would write to-morrow and tell him so. Yet for that one night the charm held her. She viewed from afar an enchanted land—a land of sunshine and singing birds—a land where it was always spring. It was a country she had seen before, but only in her dreams. Her feet had never wandered there. The path she had followed had not led to it. Perhaps it was all a mirage. Perhaps there was no path.
Yet in her dreams she crossed the boundary, and entered the forbidden land.
THE COMING OF A FRIEND
“Eternal sunshine!” said Piers, with a grimace at the deep, deep blue of the slumbering water that stretched below him to the horizon. “And at night eternal moonshine. Romantic but monotonous. I wonder if the post is in.”
He cast an irresolute glance up the path behind him, but decided to remain where he was. He had looked so many times in vain.