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She gazed in silence at the old house half hidden by great maples and beeches, their weighted branches sweeping the ground. The building was of wood, painted white, and through an archway of verdure one saw the generous doorway with its circular steps, with its fan-light above, and its windows at the side. Other quaint windows, some of them of triple width, suggested an interior of mystery and interest.
“My great-great-grandfather, Alexander Chiltern, built it," he said, "on land granted to him before the Revolution. Of course the house has been added to since then, but the simplicity of the original has always been kept. My father put on the conservatory, for instance," and Chiltern pointed to a portion at the end of one of the long low wings. "He got the idea from the orangery of a Georgian house in England, and an English architect designed it."
Honora took up the other photographs. One of them, over which she lingered, was of a charming, old-fashioned garden spattered with sunlight, and shut out from the world by a high brick wall. Behind the wall, again, were the dense masses of the trees, and at the end of a path between nodding foxgloves and Canterbury bells, in a curved recess, a stone seat.
She turned her face. His was at her shoulder.
“How could you ever have left it?" she asked reproachfully.
She voiced his own regrets, which the crowding memories had awakened.
“I don't know," he answered, not without emotion. “I have often asked myself that question.” He crossed over to the railing of the porch, swung about, and looked at her. Her eyes were still on the picture. “I can imagine you in that garden," he said.
Did the garden cast the spell by which she saw herself on the seat? or was it Chiltern's voice? She would indeed love and cherish it. And was it true that she belonged there, securely infolded within those peaceful walls? How marvellously well was Thalia playing her comedy! Which was the real, and which the false? What of true value, what of peace
and security was contained in her present existence? She had missed the meaning of things, and suddenly it was held up before her, in a garden.
A later hour found them in Honora's runabout wandering northward along quiet country roads on the eastern side of the island. Chiltern, who was driving, seemed to take no thought of their direction, until at last, with an exclamation, he stopped the horse; and Honora beheld an abandoned mansion of a bygone age sheltered by ancient trees, with wide lands beside it sloping to the water.
“What is it?" she asked.
“Beaulieu," he replied. “It was built in the seventeenth century, I believe, and must have been a fascinating place in colonial days.” He drove in between the fences and tied the horse, and came around by the side of the runabout. “Won't you get out and look at it?”
She hesitated, and their eyes met as he held out his hand, but she avoided it and leaped quickly to the ground. Neither spoke as they walked around the deserted house and gazed at the quaint façade, broken by a crumbling, shaded balcony let in above the entrance door. No sound broke the stillness of the summer's day-a pregnant stillness. The air was heavy with perfumes, and the leaves formed a tracery against the marvellous blue of the sky. Mystery brooded in the place. Here, in this remote paradise now in ruins, people had dwelt and loved. Thought ended there; and feeling, which is unformed thought, began. Again she glanced at him, and again their eyes met, and hers faltered. They turned, as with one consent, down the path toward the distant water. Paradise overgrown! Could it be reconstructed, redeemed?
In former days the ground they trod had been a pleasance the width of the house, bordered, doubtless, by the forest. Trees grew out of the flower beds now, and underbrush choked the paths. The box itself, that once primly lined the alleys, was gnarled and shapeless. Labyrinth had replaced order, nature had reaped her vengeance. At length, in the deepening shade, they came, at what had been the edge of the old terrace, to the daintiest of summer-houses, crumbling too, the shutters off their hinges, the floor-boards loose. Past and gone were the idyls of which it had been the stage.
They turned to the left, through tangled box that wound hither and thither, until they stopped at a stone wall bordering a tree-arched lane. At the bottom of the lane was a glimpse of blue water.
Honora sat down on the wall with her back to a great trunk. Chiltern, with a hand on the stones, leaped over lightly, and stood for some moments in the lane, his feet a little apart and firmly planted, his hands behind his back.
What had Thalia been about to allow the message of that morning to creep into her comedy? a message announcing the coming of an intruder not in the play, in the person of a husband bearing gifts. What right had he, in the eternal essence of things, to return? He was out of all time and place. Such had been her feeling when she had first read the hastily written letter, but even when she had burned it it had risen again from the ashes. Anything but that! In trying not to think of it, she had picked up the newspaper, learned of a railroad accident,--and shuddered. Anything but his return! Her marriage was a sin,—there could be no sacrament in it. She would fee first, and abandon all rather than submit to it.
Chiltern’s step aroused her now. He came back to the wall where she was sitting, and faced her.
“You are sad,” he said.
“What has happened?” he demanded rudely. “I can't bear to see you
sad. “I am going away,” she said. The decision had suddenly come to her. Why had she not seen before that it was inevitable?
He seized her wrist as it lay on the wall, and she winced from the sudden pain of his grip.
“Honora, I love you," he said, “I must have you—I will have you. I will make you happy. I promise it on my soul. I can't, I won't live without you.
She did not listen to his words she could not have
repeated them afterwards. The very tone of his voice was changed by passion; creation spoke through him, and she heard and thrilled and swayed and soared, forgetting heaven and earth and hell as he seized her in his arms and covered her face with kisses. Thus Eric the Red might have wooed. And by what grace she spoke the word that delivered her she never knew. As suddenly as he had seized her he released her, and she stood before him with flaming cheeks and painful breath.
“I love you," he said, "I love you. I have searched the world for you and found you, and by all the laws of God you are mine."
And love was written in her eyes. He had but to read it there, though her lips might deny it. This was the man of all men she would have chosen, and she was his by right of conquest. Yet she held up her hand with a gesture of entreaty.
“No, Hugh-it cannot be,” she said.
"Married! Do you mean that you would let that man stand between you and happiness?”
“What do you mean?” she asked, in a frightened voice.
“Just what I say,” he cried, with incredible vehemence. "Leave him divorce him. You cannot live with him. He isn't worthy to touch your hand.”
The idea planted itself with the force of a barbed arrow from a strong-bow. Struggle as she might, she could not henceforth extract it.
“Oh!" she cried.
He took her arm, gently, and forced her to sit down on the wall. Such was the completeness of his mastery that she did not resist. He sat down beside her.
“Listen, Honora,” he said, and tried to speak calmly, though his voice was still vibrant; “let us look the situation in the face. As I told you once, the days of useless martyrdom are past. The world is more enlightened today, and recognizes an individual right to happiness.
“To happiness,” she repeated after him, like a child. He
forgot his words as he looked into her eyes: they were lighted as with all the candles of heaven in his honour.
"Listen," he said hoarsely, and his fingers tightened on
The current running through her from him made her his instrument. Did he say the sky was black, she would have exclaimed at the discovery.
“Yes I am listening. “Honora!”
"Hugh," she answered, and blinded him. He was possessed by the tragic fear that she was acting a dream; presently she would awake and shatter the universe. His dominance was too complete.
“I love you— I respect you. You are making it very hard for me. Please try to understand what I am saying,” he cried almost fiercely. “This thing, this miracle, has happened in spite of us. Henceforth you belong to me do you hear?”
Once more the candles flared up.
“We cannot drift. We must decide now upon some definite action. Our lives are our own, to make as we choose. You said you were going away. And you meant-alone?”
The eyes were wide, now, with fright.
“Oh, I must-I must,” she said. “Don't-don't talk about it.” And she put forth
his. “I will talk about it,” he declared, trembling. “I have thought it all out,” and this time it was her fingers that tightened. “You are going away. And presently—when you are free I will come to you.'
For a moment the current stopped.
"No, no!" she cried, almost in terror. The first fatalist must have been a woman, and the vision of rent prison bars drove her mad. “No, we could never be happy.”
-We will be happy," he said, with a conviction that was unshaken. “Do you hear me? I will not debase what I have to say by resorting to comparisons. But-others I know have been happy-are happy, though their happiness cannot be spoken of with ours. Listen. You will go awayfor a little while--and afterwards we shall be together for