“Yes,” she said, simply, “I love you, but that only makes it all the harder—and we must say good-bye at once, and go our different ways. You who are so strong and know so much—I trust you, dear—you must help me to do what is right.”
She never thought of reproaching him, of telling him, as she very well could have done, that he had taken cruel advantage of her unsophistication. All her mind was full of the fact that they were both very sad and wicked and must help each other.
“I cannot say good-bye,” he said, “now that I know you love me, darling; it is impossible. How can we part—what will the days be—how could we get through our lives?”
She looked at him, and her eyes were the eyes of a wounded thing—dumb and pitiful, and asking for help.
Then the something that was fine and noble in Hector Bracondale rose up in him—the crust of selfishness and cynicism fell from him like a mask. He suddenly saw himself as he was, and she—as she was—and a determination came over him to grow worthy of her love, obey her slightest wish, even if it must break his heart.
He dropped upon his knees beside her on the greensward, and buried his face in her lap.
“Darling—my queen,” he said. “I will do whatever you command—but oh, it need not be good-bye. Don’t let me sicken and die out of your presence. I swear, on my word of honor, I will never trouble you. Let me worship you and watch over you and make your life brighter. Oh, God! there can be no sin in that.”
“I trust you!” she said, and she touched the waves of his hair. “And now we must not linger—we must come at once out of this place. I—I cannot bear it any more.”
And so they went—into an allee of close, cropped trees, where the gloom was almost twilight; but if there was pain there was joy too, and almost peace in their hearts.
All the anguish was for the afterwards. Love, who is a god, was too near to his kingdom to admit of any rival.
“Hector,” she whispered, and as she said his name a wild thrill ran through him again. “Hector—the Austrian Prince at Armenonville said life was a current down which our barks floated, only to be broken up on the rocks if it was our fate; and I said if we tried very hard some angel would steer us past them into smooth waters beyond; and I want you to help me to find the angel, dear—will you?”
But all he could say was that she was the angel, the only angel in heaven or earth.
And so they came at last to the Bason de Neptune, and on through the side door into the Reservoirs—and there was the widow’s automobile that moment arrived.
Every one behaved with immense propriety—they said just what they should have said, there was no gene at all. And when they went up the stairs together to arrange their hair and their hats for dinner, the elder woman slipped her arm through Theodora’s.