We were standing a little apart, for though I wanted to throw my arms about his neck at that last instant I would not allow myself to do so, because I knew that that would make it the harder for him to go.
I could see, too, that he was trying not to make it harder for me, so we stood in silence for a moment while my bosom heaved and his breath came quick.
Then he took my right hand in both of his hands and said: “There is a bond between us now which can never be broken.”
“Never,” I answered.
“Whatever happens to either of us we belong to each other for ever.”
“For ever and ever,” I replied.
I felt his hands tighten at that, and after another moment of silence, he said:
“I may be a long time away, Mary.”
“I can wait.”
“Down there a man has to meet many dangers.”
“You will come back. Providence will take care of you.”
“I think it will. I feel I shall. But if I don’t. . . .”
I knew what he was trying to say. A shadow seemed to pass between us. My throat grew thick, and for a moment I could not speak. But then I heard myself say:
“Love is stronger than death; many waters cannot quench it.”
His hands quivered, his whole body trembled, and I thought he was going to clasp me to his breast as before, but he only drew down my forehead with his hot hand and kissed it.
That was all, but a blinding mist seemed to pass before my eyes, and when it cleared the door of the room was open and my Martin was gone.
I stood where he had left me and listened.
I heard his strong step on the stone flags of the hall—he was going out at the porch.
I heard the metallic clashing of the door of the automobile—he was already in the car.
I heard the throb of the motor and ruckling of the gravel of the path—he was moving away.
I heard the dying down of the engine and the soft roll of the rubber wheels—I was alone.
For some moments after that the world seemed empty and void. But the feeling passed, and when I recovered my strength I found Martin’s letter in my moist left hand.
Then I knelt before the fire, and putting the letter into the flames I burnt it.
Within, two hours of Martin’s departure I had regained complete possession of myself and was feeling more happy than I had ever felt before.
The tormenting compunctions of the past months were gone. It was just as if I had obeyed some higher law of my being and had become a freer and purer woman.
My heart leapt within me and to give free rein to the riot of my joy I put on my hat and cloak to go into the glen.
Crossing the garden I came upon Tommy the Mate, who told me there had been a terrific thunderstorm during the night, with torrential rain, which had torn up all the foreign plants in his flower-beds.