“Dear love!—it would be my pride—my pride, Peter, to face them all—to clasp this dear hand in mine—”
“Never!” I cried, clenching my fists; “never! You must leave me; no one must know Charmian Brown ever existed—you must go!”
“Hush!” she whispered, clasping me tighter, “listen—some one is coming!” Away to the right, we could hear the leaves rustling, as though a strong wind passed through them; a light flickered, went out, flickered again, and a voice hailed faintly:
“Come,” said Charmian, clasping my hand, “let us go and meet him.”
“No, Charmian, no—I must see this man—alone. You must leave here, to-night-now. You can catch the London Mail at the cross roads. Go to Blackheath—to Sir Richard Anstruther—he is my friend—tell him everything—”
She was down at my feet, and had caught my hand to her bosom.
“I can’t!” she cried, “I can’t go—and leave you here alone. I have loved you so—from the very first, and it seems that each day my love has grown until it is part of me. Oh, Peter!—don’t send me away from you—it will kill me, I think—”
“Better that than the shame of a prison!” I exclaimed, and, while I spoke, I lifted her in my arms. “Oh!—I am proud—proud to have won such a love as yours—let me try to be worthy of it. Good-by, my beloved!” and so I kissed her, and would have turned away, but her arms clung about me.
“Oh, Peter!” she sobbed, “if you must go—if you will go, call me—your wife—just once, Peter.”
The hovering light was much nearer now, and the rustle of leaves louder, as I stooped above her cold hands, and kissed their trembling fingers.
“Some day,” said I, “some day, if there is a just God in heaven, we shall meet again; perhaps soon, perhaps late. Until then, let us dream of that glorious, golden some day, but now—farewell, oh, beloved wife!”
With a broken cry, she drew my head down upon her breast, and clasped it there, while her tears mingled with her kisses, and so—crying my name, she turned, and was lost among the leaves.
HOW I SET OUT TO FACE MY DESTINY
The pallid moon shone down pitilessly upon the dead, white face that stared up at me through its grime and blood, with the same half-tolerant, half-amused contempt of me that it had worn in life; the drawn lips seemed to mock me, and the clenched fists to defy me still; so that I shivered, and turned to watch the oncoming light that danced like a will-o’-the-wisp among the shadows. Presently it stopped, and a voice hailed once more:
“Hallo!” I called back; “this way—this way!” In a little while I saw the figure of a man whom I at once recognized as the one-time Postilion, bearing the lanthorn of a chaise, and, as he approached, it struck me that this meeting was very much like our first, save for him who lay in the shadows, staring up at me with unwinking eyes.