The Tragedy of a Night

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The Tragedy of a Night  (1901) 
by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Extracted from Windsor magazine, v. 15 1916-17, pp. 523-532. Accompanying illustrations by G. and M. Montbard omitted.


THE TRAGEDY OF A NIGHT.

By E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM

A MAN, stripped to the shirt, bruised and disfigured in many places with blood and dirt, lay prostrate upon a sand hillock, his bloodshot eyes turned steadily westwards. He was in dire straits—starving, half mad with thirst, and exhausted with fruitless fighting. For every barrel of his empty, still smoking revolver, a dead or dying man lay upon the little plateau around him. He had fought as a man fights who sees his own life forfeited by reason of overmastering odds, yet girds himself to meet death as becomes one of a great race and a great country. The number of his assailants had been such as had made fighting a pantomime, and his desperate resistance a farce, as far as any chance of escape was concerned. A hundred savage soldiery, whose language was a mystery to him, and whose arms and whole appearance a revelation, had come upon him in his sleep a short hour ago. Away over the stony steppes and across the mountains his false guides were flying in mortal terror of their lives. For this was an unknown country of horrors, at whose portals whole generations of explorers had perished, whose great City was still the home of mystery, the despair and the desire of travellers of all nations. Alone on the face of the earth this people had resisted the march of civilisation, had held firm and unshaken the great barriers which Nature and their own savagery had reared about the sacred capital. Yonder it lay in the cold, grey light across the plain, its great walls, monuments of marvellous masonry, encompassing it like an iron band, behind a heterogeneous multitude of minarets and strange square columns, flat-roofed houses, and curious watch-towers. Even in those moments of his agony the man forgot his sufferings and his approaching doom in the mingled exultation and despair of the explorer. He, first of all Englishmen—first, indeed, of all Europeans—was looking, though from afar off and in grievous plight, upon the sacred city of Thibet. Even though he paid for his daring with his life, as seemed indeed certain, here was at least some measure of consolation. Yet it was consolation fraught with dismay and anger. To die so near the goal was maddening. A fit of ineffective rage seized him. Who were these wretched, half-starved savages, to stand between him and the desire of his life? He measured them against himself, and the thought of their brute power over him made him almost hysterical in those first hours of his pain. He was a man of note in his country, rich, noble, young. If only he could make them understand! He cursed the grim barrier of non-comprehension which his little knowledge of Asiatic and their hideous dialect had reared between them. All his signs they had treated with contempt. He had pointed towards the city and had shown them papers—papers to which many seals had been affixed, and which proved him to be an Englishman of note, entitled to the respect and consideration of all foreign powers. He had pointed backwards across the hills whence he had come, a long and wearisome journey, which from days had grown into weeks, and from weeks to months. Nothing had availed him. He had no presents with which to bribe them. Such few pieces of gold which he had possessed had been snatched from him by the first comers, their yellow Mongolian faces and narrow eyes on fire with cupidity. They had stripped him of his few possessions with a ruthlessness peculiar to their race, and afterwards they had set upon him to destroy him. He had a horrible fear that even now they were hesitating to kill him only because, furious at his stout resistance, they were planning a more terrible thing. He had heard many stories of the tortures which these people inflicted upon chance travellers, drawn towards their city, as a moth to the candle, by its solemn and impenetrable mystery. He recalled them now with sickening distinctness. What they had done to others they would surely do to him. And presently it appeared that he was right. A dozen of them came dragging a pine trunk stripped of its branches up the side of a wooded ravine a hundred yards away. Others began to drill a hole in the rising ground close to where he lay. Backwards and forwards they passed, casting every now and then upon him glances of fierce and sickly hatred, shouting menaces at him in a heathen gibberish, throwing every now and then a stone at his uncovered head. The man realised then, more fully perhaps than ever before, the hideous, unconquerable hate of this people for all aliens, under which heading he, the European, most surely came. It was written in their sallow faces, it flashed in their black, narrow-slit eyes, their gestures, and the vindictive torrent of abuse which flowed from their lips, proclaimed it. Their dead comrades they kicked aside with indifference. It was no desire to avenge them which had kindled their rage, which had made death too slight a punishment to be meted out to him, which had but torture into their minds—for it was going to be torture. The man saw it in their faces, read it in every grin and leer which chilled his blood. He groaned aloud. It was an evil end for him, Geoffrey Felbrigge, Earl of Lechfort, Lord Lieutenant of his county and Master of Hounds.

An hour afterwards they left him. He was trussed and tied to the post which they had improvised, his hands and legs aching with the cords which cut into his flesh, his face turned with relentless irony to the city of his desires. They had trooped away, whither exactly he could not tell, with strange mocking cries and with flourishing gestures which seemed like an invocation to the elements to rain their tortures upon him. He was alone, with no one save his thoughts to bear him company—a strange, lone figure in the rocky solitude.

A fierce sun beat upon him all day. For ten hours he had neither eaten nor drunk, and the roof of his mouth was like blistered leather. His eyes were bloodshot and his tongue swollen. He had tugged at his cords until his arms were bruised, and the blood had forced its way through his tightened skin. Then a partial but merciless unconsciousness came to him. The sandy desert faded away from before his eyes, the sun-gleaming minarets of the city mocked him no longer, the fierce heat ceased to torture his numbed flesh. He was back in London, back in the long drawing-room, with its delicate perfumes and gently softened shade, face to face with the woman whose invincible pride and his own stubbornness had driven him forth a reckless wanderer, had kindled in him the old, wild spirit, the passion for new countries, which, before he had met her, had been the joy of his life. Tall and fair and slim, in her white evening gown, he could see her standing before him with eyes which bade him stay, which said things to him which her tongue had been too proud to utter. He could see the jewel which flashed upon her heaving bosom, the tears which welled slowly into her eyes. It was his fault, his fault. The thought of her—his wife—the woman, and the only woman he had ever loved, soothed him for one moment only to madden him the next. She would be waiting for him, and he would never return. He would never be able to take her hands, to look into her eyes, to smooth her hair and kiss away those tears, as he had longed to many a time since he had left London in a sudden fit of blind, unreasoning fury. She had been right. He had been brutal and unreasonable. After all, the difference between them had been so pitifully trivial. He was a brave man, and he had looked death in the face before, death as hideous as this, if quicker. Yet he broke down now. It was the thought of Helen—not to see her—to let her know …

The sun went down, and the cooler air was rent with the sound of a man's sobs.

In another hemisphere, London was doing its best to amuse itself. Westwards the pavements were thronged with saunterers, the streets were blocked with hansoms, the night was warm, and the women's dresses were like the wings of summer butterflies. The playhouses were flaring with light, everywhere there was colour and movement and languorous content. Further westwards, from the great dwelling-houses and the mansions of the squares, drugget crossed the pavement, there was the murmur of floating music and soft voices from the holland-shrouded balconies above. The whole city seemed steeped with pleasure this soft spring evening. Everyone was entertaining or being entertained.

On the balcony of one of the great mansions in Cadogan Square a woman was standing alone. She had escaped for a moment unseen from the brilliantly lit ball-room behind; her face was turned eastwards, and her eyes were soft with unshed tears. It was a moment rendered necessary by a sudden rush of memories which had brought a lump into her throat and a strange sadness into her heart. The last time she had been a guest in this house he had been her companion. She remembered distinctly how he had arranged her cloak in the carriage, had thrown away his freshly lit cigarette because she had coughed; had been, as it chanced, upon that evening more than ordinarily attentive to her in such little ways as woman sets store by. She remembered, too, how he had seemed to her that night, in comparison with the other men who had thronged the rooms, more than ordinarily handsome; he had danced with her three times, and out here on the balcony he had leant over her with a little laugh, and had kissed her—his own wife. Oh! how mad, how foolish she had been to let him go, when a single word from her would have stopped him! Never a day had passed but she had repented the stupid, stubborn pride which had kept sealed her lips. Where was he now? Lost to her, perhaps, for ever. She gazed wistfully and tearfully eastwards. Many thousand miles away a man was being tortured, and he, too, was thinking of that night.

"At last I have found you, then, Helen. Do you know that I have been looking for you everywhere?"

She turned round slowly and unwillingly. A tall, soldierly man was standing by her side, a man who looked at her as a man looks only at the woman whom he loves. She saw and shrank from it, as she had done many a time before. She wanted no man's love save his who was gone.

"I came out for a breath of fresh air, Morton," she answered. "The rooms here are always too hot. I think that they must be badly ventilated. I was just going in. Will you give me your arm?"

"I wonder," he said, "would you do me a favour, Helen? I want to talk to you for five minutes before you meet with any of your friends inside. May I?"

She moved her head gravely, but her manner explained a certain unwillingness.

"If it is necessary," she answered, "I am quite ready to listen to you."

He drew a short breath and hesitated. So much depended upon the next few minutes. There were grey hairs in his head, he was approaching middle age, and all his life he had loved but one woman. For a time she had been lost to him. This was his chance of winning her again. It was for life or death. No wonder that he hesitated.

"Helen," he said, at last, "there is some news which I wish you to hear first from me. The evidence of poor Geoffrey's death has been accepted unanimously and without question by the court. I believe that since midday I have had the right to call myself the Earl of Lechfort."

Once more she turned eastwards. Her cheeks were very pale, but her eyes were dry. She spoke distinctly enough, though her tone was hard and emotionless.

"I thought," she said, "that it would take a week for them to give a decision?"

"The evidence," he answered gently, "was too conclusive to leave room for a shadow of doubt. No one regrets poor Geoffrey's death more than I do, Helen; but as to doubting it—it is impossible."

"Very well, Morton," she said, "I do not complain. You must let me know about your other arrangements, and I will move into the Dower House, at Huncote, whenever you please. That, however, must not imply that I consider myself a widow."

He interrupted her—a frown upon her forehead, a note of passion in his tone.

"Give me credit at least, Helen," he cried, "for being ordinarily decent! You shall choose either Lechfort or Massingham, and it will be yours for life. Besides, I could not afford to live in them myself. I am forced to take the title and the estates; but, as you know, the income from them is not large, and all Geoffrey's money was, of course, left to you."

"I will agree to anything," she said listlessly, "which you and my solicitors advise."

He drew a little nearer to her, and the danger-light flashed once more in his eyes.

"Helen," he said, "I want you to agree to something else, which has nothing to do with Mr. Cunliffe, which has nothing to do with anybody except yourself."

"Well?"

The attempt at discouragement was obvious. He chose to ignore it.

"Geoffrey has been dead now for three years——"

She stopped him.

"He has disappeared for three years," she corrected. "Do you mind leaving it like that?"

"He is dead. The proofs are absolute. We have his clothes and his belongings, the testimony of his guides, the word of those who saw him dead. I am not one who ever hankered after dead men's shoes. I would bring him to life if I could, but it is impossible. Helen, you must learn to realise this."

She looked him steadily in the eyes.

"The proofs," she said slowly, "may seem convincing. I do not blame the courts for admitting them, or you for taking the title: yet, for myself, I am a woman, and I must have something to live for. I am going on hoping. What else can I do?"

"You can make others happy," he cried, his voice thick with emotion. "Happiness for yourself lies—that way. It is useless to nurse a dead sorrow. Geoffrey is dead, poor chap! and believe me, Helen, I am sorry. But there is the future."

"I shall live on—and hope," she murmured.

"Helen, when you say that," he answered, "you rob me of the one great hope of my life. You know very well what I mean. You know that I love you. No, don't shrink from me. I am not a poisonous thing. There is nothing criminal in loving you. If there is, I have been a criminal all my life, for I have never cared for any other woman. I don't ask for anything now—no, not even for hope. It is too soon. You have not realised as yet that Geoffrey has gone. I am going to wait very quietly and very patiently. I ask for nothing, but I want you to know."

She drew her skirts coldly away from contact with him.

"Morton," she said, "perhaps it is as well that you have spoken. I can tell you my mind now plainly. If you wish to remain my friend, you will never breathe a word of this again. To you Geoffrey may seem dead; to me he is alive. I am a woman, you know, and I am hard to convince. Facts count for little with me against consciousness. I feel that Geoffrey is alive; I refuse to believe him dead. He may never come back to me, but I shall wait for him—and hope."

"What hope can you have?" he protested bitterly. "You read the letter from Colonel Denny?"

"Other Englishmen were travelling that way."

"His clothes? They were his. His tailor has proved it."

"He may have lent them, or they may have been stolen."

"His silence?"

"He is in a country as silent as the grave."

"It is ridiculous!" he cried passionately. "You will not listen to reason. It is madness! You are offering up the best years of your life a fruitless sacrifice—to what? Heaven knows! You mean that you will never listen to me, that you will cling to this miserable folly throughout your life and mine. You will wreck them both for a whim—a superstition."

"I am Geoffrey's wife," she said. "So I shall always feel myself until——"

"Until what?"

"Until I know that he is dead."

"Until you know that he is dead," the man repeated slowly. "That is certain enough already. Yet tell me this—what further proof will satisfy you?"

"The sight of his body, or speech with one who has actually seen it," she answered slowly. "Nothing else."

The man ground his heel upon the stone floor, and his face was set and white.

"Listen, Helen," he said. "I am an idle man. I will humour your fancy. You will not listen to me unless you have speech with someone who has seen Geoffrey's body or can bring you certain word of his death. Very well. Where he went I will go. I will follow in his footsteps until I come to the end. He is dead. I know it. Never mind, I will bring you the proof. And then?"

"You mean it!" she cried. "You will go?"

"Yes, I will go. And then?"

She shook her head sadly.

"I cannot make any bargain," she said. "It is too hideous. Besides, you know my belief. You will find Geoffrey alive. I am sure of it. You will bring him home to me. If you do that—oh! if you do that!"

The light upon her face was a brilliant revelation of her surpassing beauty. But the man who saw it was white to the lips. To him it was torture. If only she would ever care for him like that!

"I will take my chance," he said slowly; "but remember that before I start I warn you. I shall come back alone. That I am sure of before I start. Try and make up your mind to it, or you will only be courting a bitter disappointment."

She answered him with apparent irrelevance.

"When shall you start?"

"To-morrow."

There was a time when the man had clung to life, but that time had gone by. It was for death now that he prayed, for forgetfulness, for oblivion. Of time he had lost all count. There was no change in the days. The same pitiless sun burned and scorched his flesh from midday to sundown. Every evening he breathed the same little gasp of relief as the fiery red ball sank behind the low line of wild, storm-beaten rocks. Yet the nights brought no relief. As the darkness fell came the keen, icy winds, the deathlike silence, the unutterable sense of desolation, which made him glad even to crane his neck and watch the dark forms of the savage warriors who guarded him gathered round a tire of logs outside their hut. At first he had treated the privations which he was made to endure, the leering gibes and hideous mockery of his yellow-skinned guards, with the full contempt of a strong, brave man. He had nerved himself to face death, and he had closed the door upon all that host of torturing thoughts which had made such an end so bitter. But the time had been too long. More than once already he had broken down, had felt a sudden burning at his eyeballs and the rush of warm, womanly tears. Beyond there seemed to be still more terrible things. Already he had experienced a hideous unloosing of all fixed thought, he had burst into violent and incoherent speech, which had sounded strangely even to his own ears. He had felt himself dimly to be on the threshold of that fearful world where the body lives and the mind is held by demons. Then he had looked about him with feverish and sick desire for a weapon with which to escape. Anything sooner than the horrible chains of madness—death a thousand times rather, if by any means he could compass, his own self-destruction. But there was no weapon. The ill-clad, pitiless savages who guarded him took zealous care that the white-faced interloper, who had dared to journey to within sight of their holy city, should not escape them. By degrees he had learned a little of their language. One might be gathered easily from their signs and disjointed words that they were discussing his death. They were weary of their solitude, of their lonely guard upon the mountains. Better finish him off, or swear that they had cut him down whilst endeavouring to escape. They died so slowly, these white-faced devils, and the time hung heavy upon their hands up here in the lonely pass. But there was always a majority who shook their heads solemnly and were firm. To end his tortures would mean death to every one of them. Their orders were to keep him alive. Their own heads would grin from the walls which bounded the slaughter-house of the city if they disobeyed. So those who were weary went out and kicked him savagely to relieve their feelings, and returned to the shelter of the hut.

Then there came a night when he awoke with a sharp cry and a rush of blood to his poor, numbed heart, from one of those long, agonising dozes which was as near as ever he could come to sleep. The cry was checked in a moment by a gentle exclamation of warning. A man was creeping out from the shadow of the rocks and coming towards him—a man whose face was familiar, whose expression was one of horrified pity. He told himself that this must be a nightmare—he had had them before, and he dug at his eyeballs, and then, opening them wider, stared and stared again. But the man's face did not fade away as those others had done. On the contrary, he was drawing nearer, his trembling lips were parted, and a hoarse whisper came from them—

"Geoffrey! Why, Geoffrey, this is horrible! What, in Heaven's name, have they been doing to you?"

Then the sleeping mind of the man awoke and his heart beat thick and strong. He had buried all hope long ago. This was like new life.

"Morton," he whispered faintly. "Speak to me again softly. Let me feel you. I want to be sure that you are flesh and blood. I have had so many fancies in the night-time. Let me be sure that this is not another cursed dream."

The man drew nearer to him, and the glazed eyes of the captive lit up as though with fire. Whatever those others might have been, this was a real and palpable presence.

"You know me, Geoffrey, old chap. I came out here to look for you. They said that these devils had done you to death. Thank God that I have found you! Have courage, Geoff."

"Thank God, indeed!" the man sobbed. "Be still for a moment, Morton; let me think."

There was a short, tense silence. His heart was thumping against his ribs, and his head swam. Yet with this sudden birth of hope something of his old coolness was back again. He was able to think, and to think clearly. Afar off there was a break in the night, the dawn was already brightening in the east. Soon they would be bringing his handful of dried peas and water. He looked anxiously towards the hut where all was still.

"You are not alone, Morton?" he whispered. "How many of you are there?"

"Only myself and one guide, an Afghan," the new-comer answered. "The others have all deserted. I started with twenty, and twenty bearers, but they have melted away. We have had to fight twice."

"There are twelve men guarding me," the prisoner whispered, motioning towards the hut. "Soon they will wake and bring me food. If you set me free now, we should not be able to get far enough away. Go and hide till night comes again. When it is dark enough I will call out as though with pain. They will take no notice. I have shrieked through a whole night, and they have not turned their heads. Come softly up to me then, and have a knife ready to cut these accursed ropes. How did you come—on foot?"

"I have horses; two spare ones—little mountain ponies. They climb the mountains like cats. Once away, they will never catch us. Bear up, old chap, till to-night."

All through the long day the man, who seemed indeed to be enduring a perpetual crucifixion, appeared to be growing weaker and weaker. The soldiers who guarded him wagged their heads, came out to stare, and jabbered amongst themselves. He was nearing his end, that was certain. No one but a strong man could have held out so long. It was nearly all over now. They decided to send one of their number to the city with the news. Their instructions had been to keep him alive as long as possible. He was to remain there, alive or dead, an awful message from this people to the hated strangers who should seek to force their way on towards the sacred city. But when their backs were turned there was a change in the man. A new light was in his eyes, the fire of a new hope was burning once more in his veins. Yet that day was the longest he had ever known. Surely the sun had never moved so slowly, the darkness had never been so long delayed! Yet, slowly though that fiery red ball sank into the west, its setting was none the less sure. At last the rim touched the broken line of rocky hills, beyond which were home and freedom. Then, all quivering with impatience, the man waited whilst grey deepened into black, and the voices of his guards, seated together in the distance, grew drowsier and fainter. And the day, too, had been long, the longest of his life to the man who lay behind a rock waiting only a few hundred yards away. Months ago, when first he had heard some vague rumours of an Englishman held in captivity and torture by this cruel and savage people, he had had only one thought—to push on at all hazards and at all risks. He had only half believed their story; even if there were truth in it, he had not expected to discover in their captive the man to find some trace of whom was the avowed object of his expedition. During that long, horrible day he began to realise what the finding of Geoffrey must mean to him. It was the death-blow to his hopes. With this man's return to life must end the one great desire of his heart. It was like slow madness creeping into his brain. He had never doubted but that he would go home after many dangers and many privations to take her hand in his, to tell her that he had done all that a man could do, that failure was written in the Book of Death beforehand, and then, some day, to plead for his reward. He would not have hurried her; she was not a woman to be easily won, but in the end his persistence and his devotion must have triumphed. This is how he had thought of the future; his worst imaginings had never included such a possibility as this. He was to return shamefaced and corrected, to confess that she was right, to take her husband home to her, and leave them to their happiness. What was there left for him? Without Helen life in any form was barely endurable. The desire for her had been the one great desire of his life. He looked back over the bare, wild country across which he had come, across the iron-girt hills on which never a tree or a shrub could blossom, and up the great gorge where every footstep had been taken in peril, and every loose stone dislodged by their cautious progress had fallen a thousand feet. And as the day wore on, the man's passion grew and voices whispered in his ear. Helen was so beautiful; she would so soon learn to love him. If he crept away now down into the little valley where the ponies were tethered and his worn-out guide was sleeping, in an hour he would be far away. The way back was easy. There would be no one to whisper of his treachery, rather he would be praised for his gallant journey into the heart of a dangerous country. What was Geoffrey to him? There had been no pretence at friendship between them; they were kin, and that was all. And Helen. He closed his eyes and stood once more by her side upon the balcony. The perfume of her hair, the soft, silent music of her eyes—with a swift rush of memories these things became suddenly real to him in the deep silence of a brooding and unpeopled land.

When the sun set he was ten miles away, riding with white, hard face and loose hands, breathing sharply, and with a glare in his eyes which was like the glare of a madman. For he was pursued by ghosts, they were on every side of him; in front, their voices whispered to him through the gathering darkness. Was it he, Morton Felbrigge, soldier and gentleman, a man of honour and of good conscience, who was riding into the night with ashen cheeks—never daring to look behind, trembling at every shadow, and starting at every breath of wind which moaned through the few lone trees? He thought of his last campaign, of that terrible battle from whence he had come drenched with blood, with the body of his comrade upon his shoulders and the thunderous applause of his wildly excited regiment in his ears. He thought of the small iron cross which the Queen had pinned to his breast, and which, it had seemed to him, must for ever keep the man against whose heart it beat from even the passing thought of meanness or dishonour. He thought of the woman who trusted him, with whom his life—if, indeed, he ever dared to claim her—must be one long living lie; of the grim secret which, as the years went on, would work in his veins like poison, until the hour of inevitable confession came, and the eyes which had learned to look upon him kindly blazed out the scorn of a wronged and deceived woman. He thought of these things until his head was full of horror, and he hated himself and what he was doing with a deadly, sickening hatred. Yet he rode on still into the night.

And behind, across the steppes and up the gorge, a man was waiting for him with breathless and passionate eagerness. The sun had set and the darkness had come. With pain and difficulty he moved his head a little and looked around. Where was Morton, his deliverer? Why did he not come? Every moment now was a golden moment wasted. The night was dark, his guards were asleep. Many times his cry, strained at first, but pitifully now in earnest, had wailed out upon the thick darkness. Sometimes his guards had cursed, sometimes an animal from the distant belt of woods had yelped back an answer, but Morton never came, and of all the nights of torture which the man had passed that was the cruellest. When morning came he was very near to death, when the midday sun beat upon his head he was raving. When night came again he was in a torpor, and death hovered around.

He was still unconscious when a knife cut his bonds and the arm of a strong man lifted him, a poor, helpless wreck, from the ground. The motion of a pony revived him for a moment, at the sound of a shot he opened his eyes. He was in a strange place, and, as he staggered back to consciousness, he saw such a sight as few have looked upon. He saw Morton, with blood streaming from his face, and eyes flashing like a man possessed of devils. With a two-edged sword, which gleamed in his hand like whirling silver, he had cut down three of his assailants. In his left hand his revolver was flashing out the fires of death. The desire of life seized hold of the half-conscious man. He slipped from his pony, and snatching a sword from the dead hand of a prostrate man, joined in the fray. It was a battle against hideous odds, but when it was over Geoffrey was unhurt, and his deliverer, with the stump of an arm hanging useless by his side and the lust of blood in his red eyes, was looking about for more men to kill—and there was none.

It was years before Geoffrey knew the whole truth, but he and Helen heard it together one Christmas morning, when a great guest honoured them by coming straight to Lechfort Towers, on his return from a campaign which had made his name a household one, and himself the idol of an enthusiastic country. Outside, the way across the park to church was lined with people who were waiting to see him pass, who had come from far and near on the chance of seeing him. He took them both into the great library and bade them listen to him.

With slow, bitter words and bent head he told them the story of that night and day. He told them of his flight and of the agony of his repentance, how he had ridden back through the soft, grey dawnlight and the burning heat as though the fires of hell were at his back. But they never let him finish. Geoffrey had seized his hands and with a deep sob had begged him to stop. But the woman bent over and closed his white lips with hers.

When they passed out across the park and between the lines of people, who had been waiting with uncovered heads in deep, respectful silence for a glimpse of him, he bowed to them with a smile which for many years no man had seen. Those who knew him from his photographs wondered. Later, in the clubs, men congratulated him upon his altered looks and obvious happiness. He laughed at them always and passed on. He alone knew how slight the joy which his fame and success had brought, how immeasurably sweet the dropping of that grim burden of self-hatred, which at the touch of her lips and the clasp of Geoffrey's hands had fallen away from him for ever. The tragedy of that night has still a dark corner in his mind, but the key has been turned upon it and the fires are extinct.


Copyright, 1902, by Ward, Lock and Co., in the United States of America.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926.


The author died in 1946, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.