‘Oh! foolish man,’ she whispered low, ’did you think to deceive a woman’s heart thus clumsily? You who talked of the beech in the Hall garden, you who found your way so well to this dark chamber, and spoke the writing in the ring with the very voice of one who has been dead so long. Listen: I forgive that friend of yours his broken troth, for he was honest in the telling of his fault and it is hard for man to live alone so many years, and in strange countries come strange adventures; moreover, I will say it, I still love him as it seems that he loves me, though in truth I grow somewhat old for love, who have lingered long waiting to find it beyond my grave.’
Thus Lily spoke, sobbing as she spoke, then my arms closed round her and she said no more. And yet as our lips met I thought of Otomie, remembering her words, and remembering also that she had died by her own hand on this very day a year ago.
Let us pray that the dead have no vision of the living!
And now there is little left for me to tell and my tale draws to its end, for which I am thankful, for I am very old and writing is a weariness to me, so great a weariness indeed that many a time during the past winter I have been near to abandoning the task.
For a while Lily and I sat almost silent in this same room where I write to-day, for our great joy and many another emotion that was mixed with it, clogged our tongues. Then as though moved by one impulse, we knelt down and offered our humble thanks to heaven that had preserved us both to this strange meeting. Scarcely had we risen from our knees when there was a stir without the house, and presently a buxom dame entered, followed by a gallant gentleman, a lad, and a maiden. These were my sister Mary, her husband Wilfred Bozard, Lily’s brother, and their two surviving children, Roger and Joan. When she guessed that it was I come home again and no other, Lily had sent them tidings by the servant man John, that one was with her whom she believed they would be glad to see, and they had hurried hither, not knowing whom they should find. Nor were they much the wiser at first, for I was much changed and the light in the room shone dim, but stood perplexed, wondering who this stranger might be.
‘Mary,’ I said at length, ‘Mary, do you not remember me, my sister?’
Then she cried aloud, and throwing herself into my arms, she wept there a while, as would any of us were our beloved dead suddenly to appear before our eyes, alive and well, and her husband clasped me by the hand and swore heartily in his amazement, as is the fashion of some men when they are moved. But the children stood staring blankly till I called the girl to me, who now was much what her mother had been when we parted, and kissing her, told her that I was that uncle of whom perhaps she had heard as dead many years ago.