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the unswerving authority which brooked neither appeal nor argument.
Edith, critical even in her sympathy, said to herself :
'He has not changed, whatever he may think. He is modern, complex ; not simple and single-minded. He has neither the courage of his convictions nor the glory of his illusions as Bernard had. Yet he has something he never had before, and Mr. Edyvean is right; there was never anyone who needed religion more.'
His words broke into her thoughts.
* You have been to Aberfraw. Mrs. Loveden wrote to me. I thought you would have written about it, but you never did.'
'I went to nurse poor Lady Gryffydd after the shock of her son's death. And I have been once since. She had a second stroke, and made a marvellous recovery, so far as her physical health is concerned ; but her mind has practically gone.'
‘She never had much,' said Michael grimly.
* You must have seen-Winefride's little sister—who was to have been a nun, but had no vocation after all. The little sister
, whom I never saw--'
Edith's heart beat fast, and to herself she said, “ And if you saw her you would know.'
Her thoughts became unconscious prayers. Please God, let him never see her. Help me to keep him away. Let him never know that his faith is founded on a dream, and on the shadow of a dream ...'
When her attention was recalled, Michael was speaking of the church and the monastery which his money had built, and which were now finished, and in the occupation of the community for whom it had been destined.
Thank Heaven, I made all those arrangements before I left England. I need never go near the place again. I don't suppose I ever shall. I had handed over all my responsibilities to Bernard, and I believe by his will it became the property of the Church. Any way, I have nothing to do with it.'
* Don't you want to see it?'
There was a kind of shame in the relief with which she leaned back in her chair, clasping her hands tightly together.
On the darkness her fancy, against her will, painted in vivid colours little Thekla's fair sorrowful face, and trustful, unreproachful eyes. She tried to banish an uncomfortable vision of a too-slender
childish figure moving about the great, draughty, comfortless halls of the old castle at Aberfraw, tending an imbecile mother; oppressed with cares and anxieties and responsibilities unsuited to her tender youth ; and with that youth fading, and an innocent heart empty of hope ...
' Not now,' Michael answered her. 'If Bernard had been there it would have been different. But what have I to do there now? No. My plan is to go back to South Africa. I can see my way to justify my existence out there as I can't in England. I want to go back-as soon as I can--He stopped, and said “I only
' came home to see you, Edith.'
She did not speak.
'Since Bernard died, my need of human companionship has brought you to my mind a thousand times. Once when I stood by,
a out there, watching the wasted body of a little nurse, who had worked herself to death, being lowered into her grave, the thought darted through my mind of what a fearful blank it would have been if that had been you ; and I realised, almost suddenly, how tremendously your sympathy and understanding counted in my life, and thanked God that you hadn't come out to South Africa; for you, too, are one of those who would have worked yourself to death. That you were safe at home, able to write to me-'
'I didn't write much, nor often,' Edith said rather remorsefully.
' I thought of you often and much,' he said, frankly. There seemed no one else left; but I realised, too, that you had counted for a great deal even while my little lost angel was alive. You see, being as I am, a creature of changeful moods, it is exceedingly restful to find a companion at once so responsive and so unchanging as yourself.'
'I am not always responsive, and—companionship is not all, said Edith ; but she was conscious of a strange muffled throbbing of the heart that made breathing momentarily difficult.
'Not all, certainly,' said Michael instantly. “But an enormous essential in-marriage. As essential as unlikeness. For instance, he said gaily, 'a comet, I am sure, would never fall in love with another comet, but always with a fixed star. That steady, unchanging, soft brightness would certainly be the comet's ideal.'
Edith forced herself to master an unwonted nervousness.
'I suppose,' she said slowly, 'that as every woman forms some ideal of manhood, so every man has his ideal of a woman; and that--that the little girl who died-satisfied yours wholly ? '
'What makes you ask that ?' said Michael, quickly and almost uneasily. Then, as though constrained to an admission, he went on : 'It is true that she was the living embodiment of my boyish dreams. But now I am a man-and she is no longer on earth.'
* But the vision of the type which she represents,' she persisted, rather tremulously, ‘remains with you—her fairness-her innocence'
' Don't,' he said, in a sharp voice of pain.
Edith turned away her face, looking over the red-draped balcony into the almost empty street below; empty save for a few amorous couples pacing the pavement arm-in-arm, and the occasional clatter past of a hansom summoned by a shrill invisible whistle.
'He does not love me-in that way. Not yet,' she thought, and a pain that was akin to the bitter pain of jealousy brought a rush of colour to her face ; but she knew that it was not jealousy of the dead, but of the living.
A thin, soundless voice sang in her brain ; the echo of the faraway words of the hermit: 'He would love her if he saw her. He must. She is the same ... the living image of her dead sister Her little hand would lead him . . . towards all things good It is only a woman who could help. While her own heart pleaded as though in answer : ‘Would you have him lose his faith ?' And her conscience urged : This is the moment to decide--before his love for you has wakened into life.'
The thought of her—still makes you unhappy ?' she said, almost inaudibly.
Michael hesitated, and said with a kind of agitated laughter, which held nothing of merriment:
'You always force me to dive below the surface on which I like to float. It's like this—the thought of her—and of Bernard -have become blended in my mind in a most extraordinary way. As though—as though two angels, destined to save so faulty and commonplace an individual as myself, had lightened the workaday world for him for a moment and then vanished ; leaving him their Faith as a consolation. Yet leaving him, none the less, mortal and with mortal needs; and--and those include the necessity of looking for mortal happiness ; since, like your mother, I can endure neither solitude nor uncongenial companionship.'
You said just now that, please God, nothing would ever shake your faith any more.
What of a companion who did not share it?'
* There would always be the hope,' he said readily, 'that in the end-she might share it.'
"There are some--who love truth, and beauty, and goodness in their hearts,' said Edith,to whom the name of the embodiment of these abstract things is the name of God. But that is not the same?'
• It is not the same,' he agreed, gently. 'Would that make any difference?'
‘Not now. It might once. I might have been afraid—I am a poor creature, as you know. But-I told you I was changed. I have looked on death very often, and it has come very near to me.' He paused. “Before Bernard died, he asked me to make him a promise. Perhaps he thought it would be a safeguard. He believed me to be, perhaps, more impulsive, more changeable, more easily influenced than I am. However that may be, I am not very likely to break that promise. I have sworn to him never in any circumstances to leave the Church. I am not likely to want to, because, you see, beyond and above all the rest, I have received—the gift of grace for which she prayed.'
'Would your faith-stand any test ?' Edith asked, with dry lips.
'I think so,' he answered, wondering.
'Do you-give me leave—to refer to—to a confidence you once made me? I know it is as a rule--an odious thing to dobut I want to-once-'
'Surely,' he said instantly.
'If-you knew-for certain—' she said, and forced her voice to a lightness and scorn which made it sound quite natural even in her own ears, ‘that the vision you saw in the chapel-was only—the creation of a disordered brain-would it would it make any difference?'
'It is curious you should say that,'said Michael, slowly, because I have often thought—that, after all, it might have been that. I wasn't myself. I was half out of my mind with grief and shock. But no—that certainly wouldn't make any difference ... I have got far beyond that ... Whether it was real or not, it gave me the impetus I needed, and led me, even in unconsciousness, to take the step which has brought me peace of mind. In that sense, I suppose, it was a miracle, as I thought it at the time.'
Edith sat motionless. Her mind, vaguely seeking to evade
the agony of realisation, dwelt vaguely upon the fact that in the space of a moment the human heart can experience a strange variety of emotion. But the habits of clear thought, and straightforward reasoning, and swift decision, engendered by a life of discipline, and hard work, and self-sacrifice, prevailed.
' His happiness is assured. But am I to snatch mine from the pain and loneliness of a child ? A child who loves me.'
Michael waited, wondering what she would say next; uncertain of her attitude towards him.
She sought words and found them.
'I think you are right to go back to South Africa,' she said. 'To-morrow I shall like to hear about that. But meantime will you forgive me if I say I think you are wrong not to go and look at the monastery your money has built ? They pray for you there daily, you know, as their benefactor. Your going would givea great deal of happiness. More than you know.'
'Do you think so ?' His voice sounded undecided. 'But Lady Gryffydd never cared much about me. I don't think I could
there now'You would not see her. She lives almost entirely in her own room. Indeed, I am hoping soon to persuade them all that she ought to leave Aberfraw altogether and be brought to her sister here in London. It is time little Thekla was set free. She nurses her mother and keeps house, and looks after the estate. It is too much responsibility for so young a girl,' said Edith calmly. ' Though she has a great deal of character.'
'Like her brother and sister,' said Michael, with awakening interest. But I don't know her, and of course-it's her house now.'
* Don't you think,' she said quietly, that it might be a comfort to her, in her loneliness, to hear of her dead brother-from youwho loved him, and whom he loved so dearly?'
'I wrote to Lady Gryffydd--when he died—I got no answer,' said Michael. 'Of course I understand now. it might.'
Then why don't you go?'
Would you come ? 'he asked, obviously wavering, and she suppressed a little smile of pain in the darkness.
She looked at the dim outline of his handsome head, with its thinning crop of curling, brown hair, and realised how easily he was moved, and influenced, with something of the heart-ache of a
Yes. I suppose