Page:The Yellow Book - 04.djvu/271

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By Marion Hepworth Dixon

243

they looked at each other and avoided each other's eyes. Her husband had been in London on business for three or four days (it was some years before they finally settled in the North), and was to return by the last train. He had returned, punctually, as he did everything, and she recalled, as if it had been yesterday, the sound of his monotonous breathing through that last night. She had been unable to sleep, waiting for the morning, the morning when the dead man, then a slim young lieutenant, was to creep down to meet her in the little wood they reached by the orchard gate. Yes, in looking back she remembered everything. Her foolish fear of being too soon at the trysting-place, her dread of being too late. She recalled how she had strained her ears to listen for awakening sounds, how she had at last caught the click of an opening door, followed by cautious footsteps in the hall. To creep down was the work of a moment. Once below, and outside the cottage walls, the scent of the new-mown hay was in her nostrils, and in her limbs the intoxicating freshness of morning. She could see his figure in front of her on the narrow winding path, and heard her own welcoming cry, as she caught up her gown in the dewy grass, and darted towards him in the strange, westward-trending shadows.

And now he was dead. The white mockery of a man belowstairs, that shrouded thing, so numbing in its statue-like immobility, was all that remained. What had she left ? What tangible remembrance of that lost possession, that she might finger and gloat over in secret? To unhook the photograph with its tarnished wire and dusty frame was her first impulse, but even when she clasped it in her hands the protrait seemed, in a fashion, to evade her. The modelling of the features had evaporated, the face was almost blank. She craved for something more tangible, more human, something more intimately his.

The