And so she held her peace and let him go, though the struggle within her left her physically weak and cold, and she did not dare to raise her eyes lest he should surprise the love-light in them once again.
It had come to this at last then—the final dividing of the ways, the definite choice between good and evil. And she knew in her heart what that choice would be, knew it even as the sound of the closing door reached her consciousness, knew it as she strained her ears to catch the fall of his feet upon the flagged path, knew it in every nerve and fibre of her being as she sprang to the window for a last glimpse of the man who had loved her all her life long, and now at last had won her for himself.
Slowly she turned round once more to the writing-table. The unopened letter caught her eye. She picked it up with a set face, looked at it closely for a few moments, and then deliberately tore it into tiny fragments.
A little later she went to her own room. From a lavender-scented drawer she took an envelope, and shook its contents into her hand. Only a tiny unmounted photograph of a laughing baby, and a ringlet of baby hair!
Her face quivered as she looked at them. They had been her dearest treasures. Passionately she pressed them to her trembling lips, but she shed no tears. And when she returned to the sitting-room there was no faltering in her step.
She poked the fire into a blaze, and, kneeling, dropped her treasures into its midst. A moment’s torture showed in her eyes, and passed.
She had chosen.
THE EAGLE’S PREY
During the whole of that day Muriel awaited in restless expectancy the coming of her fiance. She had not heard from him for nearly a week, and she had not written in the interval for the simple reason that she lacked his address. But every day she had expected him to pay his promised visit of farewell.
It was hard work waiting for him. If she could have written, she would have done so days before in such a fashion as to cause him almost certainly to abandon his intention of seeing her. For her mind was made up at last after her long torture of indecision. Dr. Jim’s vigorous speaking had done its work, and she knew that her only possible course lay in putting an end to her engagement.
She had always liked Blake Grange. She knew that she always would like him. But emphatically she did not love him, and she knew now with the sure intuition which all women develop sooner or later that he had never loved her. He had proposed to her upon a mere chivalrous impulse, and she was convinced that he would not wish to quarrel with her for releasing him.
Yet she dreaded the interview, even though she was quite sure that he would not lose his self-control and wax violent, as had Nick on that terrible night at Simla. She was almost morbidly afraid of hurting his feelings.