So the story went on—of his agonized thoughts and fever and fears—of his comprehension that she had been taken from him, and of the utter hopelessness of his financial position, and the whole outlook, until he came to the night of his engagement; and here he paused.
“Do not try to tell me any of this part, John, my dear lover,” she said. “I know the standard of honor in a man is that he must never give away the absent woman, and I understand—you need not put anything into words. I knew you were unhappy and coerced. I never for a moment have doubted your love. You were surrounded with strong and cruel forces, and all my tenderness could not reach you quite, to protect you as it should have done, because I was so full of foolish anguish myself. Dearest, now only tell me the end and the facts that I must know.”
He held her close to him in thankfulness, and then went on to speak of the shame and degradation he had suffered for his weakness; the drawn-out days of aching wonder at her silence, and finally the news of his Uncle Joseph Scroope’s death and the fortune that would come to him, and how this fact had tied and bound his hands.
“But it has grown to such a pass,” he said, “that I had come to breaking-point, and now I can never go back to her again. I have found you, my one dear love, and I will never leave you more.”
Halcyone shook her head sadly, and asked him to listen to her side. And when he knew that her leaving La Sarthe Chase had been brought about because of his letter to Cheiron having been posted from London, so that she hoped to find him there, it added to his pain to feel that, even in this small turn of events, his action had been the motive force.
But, as she went on, her pure and exquisite love and perfect faith shining through it all seemed to draw his soul out of the mire in which it had lain. And at last they knew each other’s stories and were face to face with the fateful moment of to-day, and he exclaimed gladly:
“My darling, now nothing else matters—we will never, never part again.”
Then, as he looked into her eyes, he saw that not gladness but a solemn depth of shadow grew there, and he clasped both her hands. A cold agony chilled his whole being. What, O God, was she going to say?
“John,” she whispered, all the tenderness of the angels in her gentle voice as she leaned and kissed the silver threads in his dark hair. “John, do you remember, long ago when we spoke of Jason and Medea, and you asked me the question then, Must he keep his word to her even if she were a witch?—and I told you that was not the point at all: it was not because she was or was not a witch, but because it was his word?”—Here her voice broke, and he could hear the tears in it, and he wildly kissed her hands. Then she went on:
“Oh, my dear lover, it is the same question now. You cannot break your word. Nothing but misfortune could follow. It is a hard law, but I know it is true, and it is fate. We put in action the force which brings all that we receive, and we who have courage pay the price without flinching, and, above and beyond all momentary pleasure or pain, we must be true to ourselves.”