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 The exulting1 wind had swept the clouds away, and the moon rode in a dark blue sea of sky, making the night light purely2 clear, when they drew a little apart, that they might better see the wonderfulness in each other's faces. It was so mysteriously great a thing that they felt near to awe3.  
“I fought too long. I wore out my body's endurance, and now I am quaking like a boy. Red Godwyn did not begin his wooing like this. Forgive me,” Mount Dunstan said at last.
“Do you know,” with lovely trembling lips and voice, “that for long—long—you have been unkind to me?”
It was merely human that he should swiftly enfold her again, and answer with his lips against her cheek.
“Unkind! Unkind! Oh, the heavenly woman's sweetness of your telling me so—the heavenly sweetness of it!” he exclaimed passionately4 and low. “And I was one of those who are 'by the roadside everywhere,' an unkempt, raging beggar, who might not decently ask you for a crust.”
“It was all wrong—wrong!” she whispered back to him, and he poured forth6 the tenderest, fierce words of confession7 and prayer, and she listened, drinking them in, with now and then a soft sob8 pressed against the roughness of the enrapturing9 tweed. For a space they had both forgotten her hurt, because there are other things than terror which hypnotise pain. Mount Dunstan was to be praised for remembering it first. He must take her back to Stornham and her sister without further delay.
“I will put your saddle on Anstruthers' horse, or mine, and lift you to your seat. There is a farmhouse10 about two miles away, where I will take you first for food and warmth. Perhaps it would be well for you to stay there to rest for an hour or so, and I will send a message to Lady Anstruthers.”
“I will go to the place, and eat and drink what you advise,” she answered. “But I beg you to take me back to Rosalie without delay. I feel that I must see her.”
“I feel that I must see her, too,” he said. “But for her—God bless her!” he added, after his sudden pause.
Betty knew that the exclamation11 meant strong feeling, and that somehow in the past hours Rosalie had awakened12 it. But it was only when, after their refreshment13 at the farm, they had taken horse again and were riding homeward together, that she heard from him what had passed between them.
“All that has led to this may seem the merest chance,” he said. “But surely a strange thing has come about. I know that without understanding it.” He leaned over and touched her hand. “You, who are Life—without understanding I ride here beside you, believing that you brought me back.”
“I tried—I tried! With all my strength, I tried.”
“After I had seen your sister to-day, I guessed—I knew. But not at first. I was not ill of the fever, as excited rumour15 had it; but I was ill, and the doctors and the vicar were alarmed. I had fought too long, and I was giving up, as I have seen the poor fellows in the ballroom16 give up. If they were not dragged back they slipped out of one's hands. If the fever had developed, all would have been over quickly. I knew the doctors feared that, and I am ashamed to say I was glad of it. But, yesterday, in the morning, when I was letting myself go with a morbid17 pleasure in the luxurious18 relief of it—something reached me—some slow rising call to effort and life.”
She turned towards him in her saddle, listening, her lips parted.
“I did not even ask myself what was happening, but I began to be conscious of being drawn19 back, and to long intensely to see you again. I was gradually filled with a restless feeling that you were near me, and that, though I could not physically20 hear your voice, you were surely CALLING to me. It was the thing which could not be—but it was—and because of it I could not let myself drift.”
“I did call you! I was on my knees in the church asking to be forgiven if I prayed mad prayers—but praying the same thing over and over. The villagers were kneeling there, too. They crowded in, leaving everything else. You are their hero, and they were in deep earnest.”
His look was gravely pondering. His life had not made a mystic of him—it was Penzance who was the mystic—but he felt himself perplexed21 by mysteriously suggestive thought.
“I was brought back—I was brought back,” he said. “In the afternoon I fell asleep and slept profoundly until the morning. When I awoke, I realised that I was a remade man. The doctors were almost awed22 when I first spoke23 to them. Old Dr. Fenwick died later, and, after I had heard about it, the church bell was tolled24. It was heard at Weaver's farmhouse, and, as everybody had been excitedly waiting for the sound, it conveyed but one idea to them—and the boy was sent racing25 across the fields to Stornham village. Dearest! Dearest!” he exclaimed.
She had bowed her head and burst into passionate5 sobbing26. Because she was not of the women who wept, her moment's passion was strong and bitter.
“It need not have been!” she shuddered27. “One cannot bear it—because it need not have been!”
“Stop your horse a moment,” he said, reining28 in his own, while, with burning eyes and swelling29 throat, he held and steadied her. But he did not know that neither her sister nor her father had ever seen her in such mood, and that she had never so seen herself.
“You shall not remember it,” he said to her.
“I will not,” she answered, recovering herself. “But for one moment all the awful hours rushed back. Tell me the rest.”
“We did not know that the blunder had been made until a messenger from Dole30 rode over to inquire and bring messages of condolence. Then we understood what had occurred and I own a sort of frenzy31 seized me. I knew I must see you, and, though the doctors were horribly nervous, they dare not hold me back. The day before it would not have been believed that I could leave my room. You were crying out to me, and though I did not know, I was answering, body and soul. Penzance knew I must have my way when I spoke to him—mad as it seemed. When I rode through Stornham village, more than one woman screamed at sight of me. I shall not be able to blot32 out of my mind your sister's face. She will tell you what we said to each other. I rode away from the Court quite half mad——” his voice became very gentle, “because of something she had told me in the first wild moments.”
Lady Anstruthers had spent the night moving restlessly from one room to another, and had not been to bed when they rode side by side up the avenue in the early morning sunlight. An under keeper, crossing the park a few hundred yards above them, after one glance, dashed across the sward to the courtyard and the servants' hall. The news flashed electrically through the house, and Rosalie, like a small ghost, came out upon the steps as they reined33 in. Though her lips moved, she could not speak aloud, as she watched Mount Dunstan lift her sister from her horse.
“Childe Harold stumbled and I hurt my foot,” said Betty, trying to be calm.
“I knew he would find you!” Rosalie answered quite faintly. “I knew you would!” turning to Mount Dunstan, adoring him with all the meaning of her small paled face.
She would have been afraid of her memory of what she had said in the strange scene which had taken place before them a few hours ago, but almost before either of the two spoke she knew that a great gulf34 had been crossed in some one inevitable35, though unforeseen, leap. How it had been taken, when or where, did not in the least matter, when she clung to Betty and Betty clung to her.
After a few moments of moved and reverent36 waiting, the admirable Jennings stepped forward and addressed her in lowered voice.
“There's been little sleep in the village this night, my lady,” he murmured earnestly. “I promised they should have a sign, with your permission. If the flag was run up—they're all looking out, and they'd know.”
“Run it up, Jennings,” Lady Anstruthers answered, “at once.”
When it ran up the staff on the tower and fluttered out in gay answering to the morning breeze, children in the village began to run about shouting, men and women appeared at cottage doors, and more than one cap was thrown up in the air. But old Doby and Mrs. Welden, who had been waiting for hours, standing14 by Mrs. Welden's gate, caught each other's dry, trembling old hands and began to cry.
The Broadmorlands divorce scandal, having made conversation during a season quite forty years before Miss Vanderpoel appeared at Stornham Court, had been laid upon a lower shelf and buried beneath other stories long enough to be forgotten. Only one individual had not forgotten it, and he was the Duke of Broadmorlands himself, in whose mind it remained hideously37 clear. He had been a young man, honestly and much in love when it first revealed itself to him, and for a few months he had even thought it might end by being his death, notwithstanding that he was strong and in first-rate physical condition. He had been a fine, hearty38 young man of clean and rather dignified39 life, though he was not understood to be brilliant of mind. Privately40 he had ideals connected with his rank and name which he was not fluent enough clearly to express. After he had realised that he should not die of the public humiliation41 and disgrace, which seemed to point him out as having been the kind of gullible42 fool it is scarcely possible to avoid laughing at—or, so it seemed to him in his heart-seared frenzy—he thought it not improbable that he should go mad. He was harried43 so by memories of lovely little soft ways of Edith's (his wife's name was Edith), of the pretty sound of her laugh, and of her innocent, girlish habit of kneeling down by her bedside every night and morning to say her prayers. This had so touched him that he had sometimes knelt down to say his, too, saying to her, with slight awkward boyishness, that a fellow who had a sort of angel for his wife ought to do his best to believe in the things she believed in.
“And all the time——!” a devil who laughed used to snigger in his ear over and over again, until it was almost like the ticking of a clock during the worst months, when it did not seem probable that a man could feel his brain whirling like a Catherine wheel night and day, and still manage to hold on and not reach the point of howling and shrieking44 and dashing his skull45 against wails46 and furniture.
But that passed in time, and he told himself that he passed with it. Since then he had lived chiefly at Broadmorlands Castle, and was spoken of as a man who had become religious, which was not true, but, having reached the decision that religion was good for most people, he paid a good deal of attention to his church and schools, and was rigorous in the matter of curates.
He had passed seventy now, and was somewhat despotic and haughty47, because a man who is a Duke and does not go out into the world to rub against men of his own class and others, but lives altogether on a great and splendid estate, saluted48 by every creature he meets, and universally obeyed and counted before all else, is not unlikely to forget that he is a quite ordinary human being, and not a sort of monarch49.
He had done his best to forget Edith, who had soon died of being a shady curate's wife in Australia, but he had not been able to encompass50 it. He used, occasionally, to dream she was kneeling by the bed in her childish nightgown saying her prayers aloud, and would waken crying—as he had cried in those awful young days. Against social immorality51 or village light-mindedness he was relentlessly52 savage53. He allowed for no palliating or exonerating54 facts. He began to see red when he heard of or saw lightness in a married woman, and the outside world frequently said that this characteristic bordered on monomania.
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