AND KISSED AGAIN WITH TEARS

“You have returned with your face so fair,
Your sweet blue eyes and your golden hair,
Again to cherish–again to share
This life of mine with its joy and care.

“Alas, my dearest, the days were long,
When memories came in a countless throng,
To sing to my heart such a haunting song,
Of things once right that had changed to wrong.

“You have returned just to heal the smart
That Sorrow made with her cruel dart,
Never again will we sigh and part.
You once more are my leal sweetheart.”

The Hon. Angus Macjean’s experiences of early married life could
hardly be called pleasant, seeing the demands made upon himself and
his bride by their mutual friends. Shortly after their marriage, Aunt
Jelly had died, thereby causing them to return to London before the
end of the honeymoon, then, during their visit to Lord Dunkeld, Mrs.
Macjean had been summoned south in order to console Lady Errington for
the loss of her child, and now as Eustace had telegraphed Alizon to
come over to her sick husband at San Remo, it was necessary that
Otterburn should escort her, for it was impossible, in her present
state of grief, that she could travel alone. The young couple,
therefore, did not get so much of each other’s company as they
desired, and it said a great deal for the good nature of both, that
they were so ready to comfort the mourner, at the sacrifice of their
own desires, and the upsetting of all their plans.

Life at Errington Hall was very dreary after the death of the heir, as
Victoria was constantly with the unhappy mother and Otterburn was left
to wander about with nothing but his own thoughts, which were not
particularly cheerful in the present aspect of affairs. Then came the
funeral, which Macjean had to look after entirely by himself, as
Eustace and Errington were both absent. The young man had received a
letter from Gartney, stating that Guy was too ill to travel, and
Victoria had shown it to Alizon, but, wrapped up in the selfishness of
grief for her great loss, she had made hardly any remark about this
new blow.

Then came the peremptory telegrams summoning the wife to the bedside
of her sick husband, and Otterburn, through his wife, delicately
offered to accompany Lady Errington to San Remo as soon as she was
ready to start.

Alizon was a long time making up her mind about going, as she
considered that her husband had grossly insulted her by his
openly-displayed passion for Mrs. Veilsturm. Still, on calm
reflection, she saw that she was to a great extent blameable for his
folly, and as the death of Sammy had considerably softened her heart
towards his wrong-doing, she determined to fulfil her duty as a wife
and go across to the Riviera at once. The child’s death had left a
blank in her heart, and she felt that she must have someone to love
and console her, or she would go mad in the loneliness of her grief;
so with these thoughts in her heart she sent a telegram to Eustace,
announcing her departure, and prepared for the journey.

She accepted Otterburn’s escort as far as San Remo, but promised that
as soon as she was established by Guy’s sick bed, Angus should return
to his wife, who was to be left behind at Errington Hall. Angus agreed
to this, and in company with the young man and her maid, she left
Victoria Station _en route_ for the Italian Riviera.

The whole journey seemed to her like a dream; the bright English
landscape, which she knew so well; the breezy passage across the
Channel, with the tossing waves and blue sky; Calais, with its
bustling crowd of natives and tourists; the long journey through the
pleasant Norman country, and then Paris, gay and glittering, where
they stayed all night. Next morning again in the train rushing
southward, past quaint, mediæval towns, with their high-peaked houses,
over slow-flowing rivers, through ancient forests already bearing the
touch of Autumn’s finger–still onward, onward, till they reached
Marseilles, sitting by the blue waters of the Mediterranean.
Afterwards they continued their journey through smiling Provence,
along the sunny Riviera–Cannes, Mentone, Nice, all passed in their
turn; a glimpse of Monte Carlo, where the Goddess of Play sits
enthroned on high–palm-crowned Bordighera–deserted Ospedaletti, with
its lonely Casino–and at last San Remo, amid her grey olive-groves,
at the foot of the blue hills.

Eustace was waiting for them at the railway-station, looking very
grave, and bowed silently to Lady Errington, as she stepped out of the
carriage.

“Is he better?” she asked, looking haggardly at him, a tall slender
figure in her sweeping black robes.

“I’m afraid not–still we hope for the best.”

She made no reply, so after greeting Otterburn, Eustace conducted them
to a carriage, and they drove to the Hotel de la Mer. Alizon lost no
time, but asked to be taken at once to her husband’s room. Eustace
tried to prepare her mind, so that the shock of seeing him should not
be too much, but she disregarded all his entreaties, and went up to
the darkened apartment where her husband was lying. One question only
she asked Gartney before she entered:

“Is that woman here?”

“Do you think I would have sent for you had she been?” he replied,
deeply hurt. “No I She has left San Remo, and will trouble you no
more.”

“Your doing?”

“Yes.”

She gave him her slender, black-gloved hand for a moment, and then
passed to her husband’s bedside, where her place was henceforth to be.

The next morning Otterburn, having discharged his duty, returned to
his wife, and Lady Errington was left alone with Eustace to nurse the
man whom she never thought to meet with kindly feeling again.

Guy was terribly ill for a long time, but as out of evil good
sometimes comes, there was no doubt that this illness was beneficial,
inasmuch as it showed Alizon the true state of her husband’s heart. In
those long, dreary hours, as she sat beside the bed listening to his
incoherent ravings, she heard sufficient to convince her that Guy had
always tenderly loved her–that his apparent infidelity was the result
of despair, and that a word of forgiveness from her would have saved
him from the misery he had suffered. No explanation on the part of
Eustace Gartney–no explanation from her husband, had he been in good
health–would have convinced her of the truth, and there would always
have lurked in her heart a terrible suspicion that she had been sinned
against, which would have embittered her whole life. She would have
perhaps forgiven her husband, but she nevertheless would have believed
him guilty, and his presence would have been a constant regret and
reproach to the purity of her soul. But these wild mutterings, these
agonised ravings, revealed the true state of things–revealed at once
his weakness and his strength; so little by little the scales fell
from her eyes, and she saw how noble was this nature, how weak was the
soul, and how needful to its well-being was love and tenderness.

Again, since the death of her child a terrible sense of utter
loneliness had fallen upon her, and now that she saw her mistaken
judgment of Guy’s character all her being yearned for his love, and
this woman, who had only respected and admired him when he was well
and strong, now that he was prostrate and weak, passionately loved him
with all the intensity of her nature. The coldness of her nature had
departed, the frozen heart had melted, and often, overcome with terror
and dread, she flung herself on her knees beside the bed, praying to
God to spare her the husband she had never understood nor loved till
now. She never spoke to Eustace about Mrs. Veilsturm–all she knew or
cared to know was that this obstacle that had stood between herself
and her husband had been removed, and that the true feelings of that
husband had been revealed to her by the hand of God.

During all this time Eustace acted the part of a brother, and never by
word or deed betrayed the true state of his feelings. Heaven alone
knew how he suffered in maintaining a cold, patient demeanour towards
the woman he loved, and his life, from the time of her arrival till
the hour he left San Remo, was one long martyrdom. Often she wondered
at his stoical calmness and apparent forgetfulness of the words he had
spoken to her at Errington Hall, but neither of them made any
reference to the past, and she thought that he was now cured of his
passion. Cured! Eustace laughed aloud to himself as he divined her
thoughts and contentment that it should be so, and he counted the
hours feverishly until such time as he could leave her with a
convalescent husband and depart from her presence, where he had to
hide his real feelings under a mask of cynical indifference.

Owing to the unintermitting care of Dr. Storge, the careful nursing of
his wife, and the watchful tenderness of Gartney, the man who had been
sick unto death slowly recovered. The long nights of agony and
delirium were succeeded by hours of peaceful slumber, the disordered
brain righted itself slowly, and the vacant stare of the eyes and
babble of the tongue were succeeded by the light of sanity and the
words of sense. He was weak, it is true–very weak–but the first
moment of joy she had known since the death of her child came to
Alizon when one morning, while kneeling beside his bed, he called her
faintly by her name.

“Alizon.”

“Yes, dear!–your wife.”

His wife!–was this his cold, stately wife who knelt so fondly beside
him? Were those eyes–shining with love, wet with tears–the cold blue
eyes that had so often frozen all demonstrations of affection? Was
that face, full of joyful relief and emotion, the marble countenance
that had never smiled lovingly on him since he had first beheld it?
No!–it could not be Alizon–it was some deceptive vision of the
brain, painting what might have been and yet—- She saw his state of
bewilderment, and, bending over, kissed him tenderly.

“It is I–your wife!–wife not in name only, but in love and trust.”

A smile of joy flitted across his worn face, and he strove to put out
one weak hand.

“Forgive,” he said faintly, “forgive.”

“It is I who should ask forgiveness,” she replied in a broken voice;
“I was harsh and cold, my dearest, and I do ask your forgiveness. Hush
do not say a word–you are very weak, and must not talk. Let me nurse
you back to health again, and then I will strive to be a better wife
to you than I have hitherto been.”

He said nothing, but lay on his pillows, with eyes shining with love,
a contented smile on his lips, and fell asleep, still holding his
wife’s hand in his own.

After this he mended quickly, for with the return of Alizon’s
affection the desire of life had come back, and each day he grew
stronger because the vexed brain was now at rest, and the love of his
wife was a better medicine than any drugs of the doctor.

“You see,” said Storge to Eustace on leaving the chamber one day when
Guy had been pronounced convalescent, “what has cured him is not my
medicines, but his wife’s affection. Ah, Shakespeare was a wise man
when he said, ‘Thou canst not minister unto a mind diseased.’ Love is
the only cure there.”

“Lucky mind to have such a cure,” replied Gartney with a sigh; “some
minds have to bear their diseases till the end of life with no chance
of being mended.”

Storge said nothing, but he looked at him curiously, for he half
guessed the real state of the case, and sincerely pitied Eustace for
his unhappy passion.

“Poor fellow,” he thought as he departed, “he has wealth, health, fame
and popularity, yet he would give all these for what he will never
obtain–the heart of that woman.”

Guy’s complete recovery was now only a question of a few weeks, so
Eustace, feeling that he could not keep up the pretence of
indifference much longer, made up his mind to depart. With this idea
he produced a letter from Laxton one evening when he was seated with
Alizon by the bed of the convalescent.

“I’ve just got a letter from my friend,” he said cheerfully, “and he
wants me to come back to England at once.”

“What for?” asked Guy quickly.

“Oh, our African expedition, you know,” replied Eustace, smoothing out
the letter. “I put it off because of your illness, but now you are on
the way to recovery I can leave you with safety in the hands of
Alizon.”

“I never saw such a fellow,” said Guy, fretfully. “Why on earth can’t
you stay at home, instead of scampering all round the world?”

Eustace laughed, yet his mirth was rather forced.

“I’m afraid I’ve got a strain of gipsy blood in me somewhere,” he
said, jokingly, “and I can’t rest; besides, I really and truly prefer
savages to civilized idiots of the London type. They’re every bit as
decent, and much more amusing.”

All this time, Lady Errington had remained silent in deep thought, but
at the conclusion of Gartney’s speech, she looked up with a grave
face.

“When do you start?” she asked quietly.

“To-morrow morning.”

“So soon?” she said, with a start.

“Hang it, Eustace, you might have given us longer notice,” remarked
Guy, in a displeased tone of voice.

“_Cui bono?_” said Gartney, listlessly. “Long leave-takings are a
mistake, I think–the opposite of ‘linked sweetness long drawn out.’ I
always like to come and go quickly, so I’ll say goodbye to-night, and
be off the first thing in the morning.”

Neither Guy nor his wife made any further remark, as they both felt
dimly that it would be happier for Eustace to go away as soon as
possible. It was not ingratitude, it was not a desire to lose his
company, but what he had said to the wife, and what he had said to the
husband, recurred to both their memories, and they silently acquiesced
in his decision.

“Before I go,” said Eustace, after a pause, “there is one thing I wish
to say. Can I speak to you both without offence?”

“Certainly,” replied Guy, wondering what was coming. “We both owe you
more than we can ever repay.”

“You can repay it easily,” said Gartney, quickly, “by accepting the
proposition I am about to make.”

“Let us hear what it is first,” observed Alizon, looking up for a
moment with a faint smile on her lips.

“It will not take long to explain,” answered Gartney, in a
matter-of-fact tone. “You know I am rich enough to indulge all my
whims and fancies, so this new access of wealth from Aunt Jelly, is
absolutely useless to me. It ought to have been left to Guy, and had I
spoken to Aunt Jelly before she died, no doubt I would have made her
see this. As it is, however, it has been left to me, and I do not want
it. Guy, however, does so. I wish to make him a free gift of all the
property before leaving for Africa.”

“No,” said Guy resolutely, “I will not take a penny.”

“Why not?”

“Because it was left to you. I do not want to rob you.”

“It’s not a question of robbery,” said Eustace, coolly, “if the money
was of any use to me, I’d keep it. But it is not. I do not even know
that I would touch it, so it’s far better to be employed by you than
lying idle in my bank. What do you say, Alizon?”

She flushed painfully.

“What can I say?”

“That you will persuade this obstinate husband of yours to take the
money.”

“But suppose he won’t accept?”

“Which is his firm intention,” said Guy, quickly.

“In that case,” remarked Eustace grimly, “I shall simply hand it over
to the most convenient charity, say ‘The Society for the Suppression
of Critics,’ or ‘The Fund for Converted Publishers’–but keep it, I
will not.”

“You’re talking nonsense,” cried Guy, impatiently. “The sober truth, I
assure you.”

There was silence for a few moments, and at last the silence was
broken by Guy.

“If I thought you were in earnest—-” he began slowly.

“Dead earnest,” said Eustace.

“Then I suppose it will be best to accept your Quixotic offer.”

“I’m glad you look at it in such a sensible light,” retorted Gartney,
with an air of great relief. “You agree with Guy, Alizon?”

She raised her eyes slowly to his face, and looked steadily at him
before making her reply.

“Yes, I agree with Guy,” she answered frankly.

“Then it’s settled,” said Eustace with a huge sigh. “I can’t tell you
how glad I am to escape being buried under this weight of wealth, like
Tarpeia under the shields of the Sabines. An old illustration, is it
not, but remarkably apt. You will be able to clear the mortgages off
the Hall, Guy, and live there in a manner befitting the place. I will
see my lawyers as soon as I return to England, so you will have no
further trouble over the matter.”

“And what about yourself?” asked Alizon, impulsively.

“Myself?” he echoed, rising slowly from his chair. “Oh, I am going
away to foreign parts. The land of Khem–the blameless Ethiopians–the
secret sources of the Nile, and all that kind of thing.”

“But when you come back?” said Errington, raising himself on his
elbow.

“When I come back,” said Eustace sadly, a presentiment of coming doom
heavy on his soul, “then I’ll see you both happy and honoured. Perhaps
you’ll find a domestic seat for me by the domestic hearth, and I’ll
tell stories of mysterious lands to future generations of Erringtons.”

Again silence, a painful, oppressive silence, which seemed to last an
eternity.

“Goodbye, dear old fellow,” said Eustace at last, with a mighty
effort.

Guy clasped his hand without a word, his heart being too full to
speak.

“And you also, Alizon.”

She gave him her hand also, and there they stood, husband and wife,
with their hands clasped in those of the man whom they both knew had
fought a good fight–and conquered.

“Goodbye, Eustace,” whispered the woman at last, with a look of
infinite gratitude and pity in her deep eyes. “May God keep
you–brother.”

And under the spell of that gentle benediction, he passed away from
their sight for ever.