A look of relief came over him. “But,” he said amazedly, “has not the duchess told you how I happen to be here? How, when you disappeared from Paris long ago—with my ambition crushed, and nothing left to me but my old trade of the fighter—I joined a secret expedition to help the Chilian revolutionists? How I, who might have starved as a painter, gained distinction as a partisan general, and was rewarded with an envoyship in Europe? How I came to Paris to seek you? How I found that even the picture—your picture, Helen—had been sold. How, in tracing it here, I met the duchess at Deep Hill, and learning you were with her, in a moment of impulse told her my whole story. How she told me that though she was your best friend, you had never spoken of me, and how she begged me not to spoil your chance of a good match by revealing myself, and so awakening a past—which she believed you had forgotten. How she implored me at least to let her make a fair test of your affections and your memory, and until then to keep away from you—and to spare you, Helen; and for your sake, I consented. Surely she has told this, now!”
“Not a word,” said Helen blankly.
“Then you mean to say that if I had not haunted the park to-day, in the hope of seeing you, believing that as you would not recognize me with this artificial arm, I should not break my promise to her,—you would not have known I was even living.”
“No!—yes!—stay!” A smile broke over her pale face and left it rosy. “I see it all now. Oh, Philip, don’t you understand? She wanted only to try us!”
There was a silence in the lonely wood, broken only by the trills of a frightened bird whose retreat was invaded.
“Not now! Please! Wait! Come with me!”
The next moment she had seized Philip’s left hand, and, dragging him with her, was flying down the walk towards the house. But as they neared the garden door it suddenly opened on the duchess, with her glasses to her eyes, smiling.
The General Don Felipe Ostrander did not buy Hamley Court, but he and his wife were always welcome guests there. And Sir James, as became an English gentleman,—amazed though he was at Philip’s singular return, and more singular incognito,—afterwards gallantly presented Philip’s wife with Philip’s first picture.
The wind was getting up on the Bolinas Plain. It had started the fine alkaline dust along the level stage road, so that even that faint track, the only break in the monotony of the landscape, seemed fainter than ever. But the dust cloud was otherwise a relief; it took the semblance of distant woods where there was no timber, of moving teams where there was no life. And as Sue Beasley, standing in the doorway of One Spring House that afternoon, shading her sandy lashes with her small red hand, glanced along the desolate track, even her eyes, trained to the dreary prospect, were once or twice deceived.