“When I ran away from you, in the storm, Sir Maurice, I told you, once and for all, that I hated you. Have you forgotten?—hated you!—always and ever! and tried to—kill you—”
“Oh, Charmian! I have known such hate transfigured into love, before now—such love as is only worth the winning. And you are mine—you always were—from the first moment that our eyes met. Come, my chaise is waiting; in a few hours we can be in London, or Dover—”
“Never is a long time, Charmian—but I am at your service—what is your will?”
“I shall remain—here.”
“Here? In the wilderness?”
“I am going to marry your cousin—Peter Vibart.”
The pipe slipped from my fingers and shivered to pieces on the floor, and in that same fraction of time Sir Maurice had turned and leapt towards me; but as he came I struck him twice, with left and right, and he staggered backwards to the wall. He stood for a moment, with his head stooped upon his hands. When he looked up his face was dead white, and with a smear of blood upon it that seemed to accentuate its pallor; but his voice came smooth and unruffled as ever.
“The Mind Feminine is given to change,” said he softly, “and—I shall return—yes, I shall come back. Smile, madam! Triumph, cousin! But I shall come between you yet—I tell you, I’ll come between you—living or dead!”
And so he turned, and was gone—into the shadows.
But as for me, I sat down, and, leaning my chin in my hand, stared down at the broken fragments of my pipe.
“You are safe now,” said I, without looking up, “he is gone—but, oh, Charmian! was there no other way—?”
She was down beside me on her knees, had taken my hand, rough and grimy as it was, and pressed it to her lips, and so had drawn it about her neck, holding it there, and with her face hidden in my breast.
“Oh—strong man that is so weak!” she whispered. “Oh—grave philosopher that is so foolish! Oh—lonely boy that is so helpless! Oh, Peter Vibart—my Peter!”
“Charmian,” said I, trembling, “what does it mean?”
“It means, Peter—”
“Will—marry you—whenever you will—if—”
“If you will—only—ask her.”
LIGHT AND SHADOW
Now, as the little Preacher closed his book, the sun rose up, filling the world about us with his glory.
And looking into the eyes of my wife, it seemed that a veil was lifted, for a moment, there, and I read that which her lips might never tell; and there, also, were joy and shame and a deep happiness.