“To wed the man who caused all this trouble.”
“What! Prince Ernst?”
“Yes. I prayed to God, Herr, that your friend’s bullet would carry death. But it was not to be.”
“I am going back to London,” said I. “When I have settled up my affairs there I shall return.”
“Perhaps I shall complete what my friend began.”
I climbed into the ramshackle conveyance and was driven away. Once I looked back. The innkeeper could be seen on the porch, then he became lost to view behind the trees. Far away to my left the stones in the little cemetery on the hillside shone with brilliant whiteness.
There were intervals during the three months which followed when I believed that I was walking in a dream, and waking would find me grubbing at my desk in New York. It was so unreal for these days; mosaic romance in the heart of prosaic fact! Was there ever the like? It was real enough, however, in the daytime, when the roar of London hammered at my ears, but when I sat alone in my room it assumed the hazy garments of a dream. Sometimes I caught myself listening for Hillars: a footstep in the corridor, and I would take my pipe from my mouth and wait expectantly. But the door never opened and the footsteps always passed on. Often in my dreams I stood by the river again. There is solace in these deep, wide streams. We come and go, our hopes, our loves, our ambitions. Nature alone remains. Should I ever behold Gretchen again? Perhaps. Yet, there was no thrill at the thought. If ever I beheld her again it would be when she was placed beyond the glance of my eye, the touch of my hand. She was mine, aye, as a dream might be; something I possessed but could not hold. Heigho! the faces that peer at us from the firelight shadows! They troop along in a ghostly cavalcade, and the winds that creep over the window sill and under the door—who can say that they are not the echoes of voices we once heard in the past?
I was often on the verge of sending in my resignation, but I would remember in time that work meant bread and butter—and forgetfulness. When I returned to the office few questions were asked, though my assistant looked many of them reproachfully. I told him that Hillars had died abroad, and that he had been buried on the continent at his request; all of which was the truth, but only half of it. I did my best to keep the duel a secret, but it finally came out. It was the topic in the clubs, for Hillars had been well known in political and literary circles. But in a month or so the affair, subsided. The world never stops very long, even when it loses one of its best friends.
One late October morning I received a note which read:
“Dear Sir—I am in London for a few days, homeward bound from a trip to Egypt, and as we are cousins and ‘orphans too,’ I should like the pleasure of making your acquaintance. Trusting that I shall find you at leisure, I am,