He expected to see the girl he had loved and wronged this day. He had anticipated it with a kind of fierceness, for, if he had wronged her, he felt that he too had been wronged, though he could never, and would never, justify himself. He came down from the pathway and wandered through the long silent cloisters.
There were no visitors about; it was past the usual hour. He came into the old refectory, and the kitchen with its immense chimney, passed in and out of the little chapels, exploring almost mechanically, yet remembering what he saw, and everything was mingled almost grotesquely with three scenes in his life—two of which we know; the other, when his aged father turned from him dying and would not speak to him. The ancient peace of this place mocked these other scenes and places. He came into the long, unroofed aisle, with its battered sides and floor of soft turf, broken only by some memorial brasses over graves. He looked up and saw upon the walls the carved figures of little grinning demons between complacent angels. The association of these with his own thoughts stirred him to laughter—a low, cold laugh, which shone on his white teeth.
Outside a few people were coming toward the abbey from both parties of excursionists. Hagar and Mrs. Detlor were walking by themselves. Mrs. Detlor was speaking almost breathlessly. “Yes, I recognized the writing. She is nothing, then, to you, nor has ever been?”
“Nothing, on my honor. I did her a service once. She asks me to do another, of which I am as yet ignorant. That is all. Here is her letter.”
No other way.
George Hagar was the first to move. He turned and looked at Mrs. Detlor. His mind was full of the strangeness of the situation—this man and woman meeting under such circumstances after twelve years, in which no lines of their lives had ever crossed. But he saw, almost unconsciously, that she had dropped his rose. He stooped, picked it up and gave it to her. With a singular coolness—for, though pale, she showed no excitement—she quietly arranged the flower at her throat, still looking at the figure on the platform. A close observer would occasionally have found something cynical—even sinister—in Mark Telford’s clear cut, smoothly chiseled face, but at the moment when he wheeled slowly and faced these two there was in it nothing but what was strong, refined and even noble. His eyes, dark and full, were set deep under well hung brows, and a duskiness in the flesh round them gave them softness as well as power. Withal there was a melancholy as striking as it was unusual in him.
In spite of herself Mrs. Detlor felt her heart come romping to her throat, for, whatever this man was to her now, he once was her lover. She grew hot to her fingers. As she looked, the air seemed to palpitate round her, and Mark Telford to be standing in its shining hot surf tall and grand. But, on the instant, there came into this lens the picture she had seen in George Hagar’s studio that morning. At that moment Mildred Margrave and Baron were entering at the other end of the long, lonely nave. The girl stopped all at once and pointed toward Telford as he stood motionless, uncovered. “See,” she said, “how fine, how noble he looks!”