Helena eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 215 pages of information about Helena.
lighting up the tall stems of the beeches, and sending a tricky gleam or two among the tangled underwood.  It seemed to him a symbol of the sudden illumination of mind and purpose which had come to him, there, on the shadowed water—­and he turned to look at a window which he knew was Helena’s.  There were lights within it, and he pictured Helena at her glass, about to slip into some bright dress or other, which would make her doubly fair.  Meanwhile from the rose of the sunset, rosy lights were stealing over the water and faintly glorifying the old house and its spreading gardens.  An overpowering sense of youth—­of the beauty of the world—­of the mystery of the future, beat through his pulses.  The coming dance became a rite of Aphrodite, towards which all his being strained.

Suddenly, there was a loud snapping noise, as of breaking branches in the wood beside him.  It was so startling that his hands paused on the oars, as he looked quickly round to see what could have produced it.  And at the same moment the searchlight on the boathouse reached the spot to which his eyes were drawn, and he saw for an instant—­sharply distinct and ghostly white—­a woman’s face and hands—­amid the blackness of the wood.  He had only a moment in which to see them, in which to catch a glimpse of a figure among the trees, before the light was gone, leaving a double gloom behind it.

Mysterious!  Who could it be?  Was it some one who wanted to be put across the pond?  He shouted.  “Who is that?”

Then he rowed in to the shore, straining his eyes to see.  It occurred to him that it might be a lady’s maid brought by a guest, who had been out for a walk, and missed her way home in a strange park.  “Do you want to get to the house?  I can put you across to it if you wish,” he said in a loud voice, addressing the unknown—­“otherwise you’ll have to go a long way round.”

No answer—­only an intensity of silence, through which he heard from a great distance a church clock striking.  The wood and all its detail had vanished in profound shadow.

Conscious of a curious excitement he rowed still further in to the bank, and again spoke to the invisible woman.  In vain.  He began then to doubt his own eyes.  Had it been a mere illusion produced by some caprice of the searchlight opposite?  But the face!—­the features of it were stamped on his memory, the gaunt bitterness of them, the brooding misery.

How could he have imagined such a thing?

Much perplexed and rather shaken in nerve, he rowed back across the pond—­to hear the band tuning in the flower-filled drawing-room, as he approached the house.

CHAPTER IX

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Helena from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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