And Zora sat above them on a high rich-scented pile of logs. Her senses slept save her sleepless eyes. Amid a silence she saw in the little grove that still stood, the cabin of Elspeth tremble, sigh, and disappear, and with it flew some spirit of evil.
Then she looked down to the new edge of the swamp, by the old lagoon, and saw Bles Alwyn standing there. It seemed very natural; and closing her eyes, she fell asleep.
Bles Alwyn stared at Mrs. Harry Cresswell in surprise. He had not seen her since that moment at the ball, and he was startled at the change. Her abundant hair was gone; her face was pale and drawn, and there were little wrinkles below her sunken eyes. In those eyes lurked the tired look of the bewildered and the disappointed. It was in the lofty waiting-room of the Washington station where Alwyn had come to meet a friend. Mrs. Cresswell turned and recognized him with genuine pleasure. He seemed somehow a part of the few things in the world—little and unimportant perhaps—that counted and stood firm, and she shook his hand cordially, not minding the staring of the people about. He took her bag and carried it towards the gate, which made the observers breathe easier, seeing him in servile duty. Someway, she knew not just how, she found herself telling him of the crisis in her life before she realized; not everything, of course, but a great deal. It was much as though she were talking to some one from another world—an outsider; but one she had known long, one who understood. Both from what she recounted and what she could not tell he gathered the substance of the story, and it bewildered him. He had not thought that white people had such troubles; yet, he reflected, why not? They, too, were human.
“I suppose you hear from the school?” he ventured after a pause.
“Why, yes—not directly—but Zora used to speak of it.”
Bles looked up quickly.
“Yes. Didn’t you see her while she was here? She has gone back now.”
Then the gate opened, the crowd surged through, sweeping them apart, and next moment he was alone.
Alwyn turned slowly away. He forgot the friend he was to meet. He forgot everything but the field of the Silver Fleece. It rose shadowy there in the pale concourse, swaying in ghostly breezes. The purple of its flowers mingled with the silver radiance of tendrils that trembled across the hurrying throng, like threads of mists along low hills. In its midst rose a dark, slim, and quivering form. She had been here—here in Washington! Why had he not known? What was she doing? “She has gone back now”—back to the Sun and the Swamp, back to the Burden.
Why should not he go back, too? He walked on thinking. He had failed. His apparent success had been too sudden, too overwhelming, and when he had faced the crisis his hand had trembled. He had chosen the Right—but the Right was ineffective, impotent, almost ludicrous. It left him shorn, powerless, and in moral revolt. The world had suddenly left him, as the vision of Carrie Wynn had left him, alone, a mere clerk, an insignificant cog in the great grinding wheel of humdrum drudgery. His chance to do and thereby to be had not come.