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Longstaff's Marriage by By Henry James


FORTY years ago that traditional and anecdotical liberty of young American women, which is notoriously the envy of their foreign sisters, was not so firmly established as at the present hour; yet it was sufficiently recognized to make it no scandal that so pretty a girl as Diana Belfield should start for the grand tour of Europe under no more imposing protection than that of her cousin and intimate friend, Miss Agatha Gosling. She had, from the European point of view, beauty enough to make her enterprise perilous——the beauty foreshadowed in her name, which might have been given her in prevision of her tall, light figure, her nobly poised head, weighted with a coronal of auburn braids, her frank quick glance and her rapid gliding step. She used often to walk about with a big dog who had the habit of bounding at her side and tossing his head against her outstretched hand; and she had, moreover, a trick of carrying her long parasol always folded, for she was not afraid of the sunshine, across her shoulder, in the fashion of a soldiers musket on a march. Thus equipped, she looked wonderfully like that charming antique statue of the goddess of the chase which we encounter in various replicas in half the museums of the world. You half expected to see a sandal-shod foot peep out beneath her fluttering robe. It was with this tread of the wakeful huntress that she stepped upon the old sailing-vessel which was to bear her to the lands she had dreamed of. Behind her, with a great many shawls and satchels, came her little kinswoman, with quite another demarche. Agatha Gosling was not a beauty but she was the most judicious and most devoted of companions. These two persons had come together on the death of Diana's mother and the taking possession by the young lady of her patrimony. The first use she made of her inheritance was to divide it with Agatha, who had not a penny of her own; the next was to purchase a letter of credit upon a European banker. The cousins had contracted a classical friendship,——they had determined to be sufficient to each other; like the Ladies of Llangollen. Only, though their friendship was exclusive, their Llangollen was to be comprehensive. They would tread the pavements of historic cities and stand in the coloured light-shafts of Gothic cathedrals, wander on tinkling mules through mountain-gorges and sit among dark-eyed peasants by southern seas. It may seem singular that a beautiful girl with a pretty fortune should have been left to seek the supreme satisfaction of life in friendship tempered by sight-seeing; but Diana herself considered this pastime no beggarly alternative. Though she never told it herself, her biographer may do so; she had had, in vulgar parlance, a hundred offers. To say that she had declined them is to say too little; she had really scorned them. They had come from honourable and amiable men, and it was not her suitors in themselves that she disrelished; it was simply the idea of marrying. She found it insupportable: a fact which completes her analogy with the mythic divinity to whom I have likened her. She was passionately single, fiercely virginal; and in the straight-glancing grey eye which provoked men to admire, there was a certain silvery ray which forbade them to hope. The fabled Diana took a fancy to a beautiful shepherd, but the real one had not yet found, sleeping or waking, her Endymion.

Thanks to this defensive eyebeam, the dangerous side of our heroines enterprise was slow to define itself; thanks, too, to the exquisite decency of her companion. Agatha Gosling had an almost Quakerish purity and dignity; a bristling dragon could not have been a better safeguard than this glossy, grey-breasted dove. Money, too, is a protection, and Diana had enough to purchase privacy. She travelled extensively, and saw all the churches and pictures, the castles and cottages included in the list which had been drawn up by the two friends in evening talks, at home, between two wax candles. In the evening they used to read aloud to each other from Corinne and Childe Harold, and they kept a diary in common, at which they collaborated, like French playwrights, and which was studded with quotations from the authors I have mentioned. This lasted a year, at the end of which they found themselves a trifle weary. A snug posting-carriage was a delightful habitation, but looking at miles of pictures was very fatiguing to the back. Buying souvenirs and trinkets under foreign arcades was a most absorbing occupation; but inns were dreadfully apt to be draughty, and bottles of hot water, for application to the feet, had a disagreeable way of growing lukewarm. For these and other reasons our heroines determined to take a winters rest, and for this purpose they betook themselves to the charming town of Nice, which was then but in the infancy of its fame. It was simply one of the hundred hamlets of the Riviera,——a place where the blue waves broke on an almost empty strand, and the olive-trees sprouted at the doors of the inns. In those days Nice was Italian, and the “Promenade des Anglais” existed only in an embryonic form. Exist, however, it did, practically, and British invalids, in moderate numbers, might have been seen taking the January sunshine beneath London umbrellas, before the many-twinkling sea. Our young Americans quietly took their place in this harmless society. They drove along the coast, through the strange, dark, huddled fishing-villages, and they rode on donkeys among the bosky hills. They painted in water-colours and hired a piano; they subscribed to the circulating library and took lessons in the language of Silvio Pellico from an old lady with very fine eyes, who wore an enormous brooch of cracked malachite, and gave herself out as the widow of a Roman exile.

They used to go and sit by the sea, each provided with a volume from the circulating library; but they never did much with their books. The sunshine made the page too dazzling, and the people who strolled up and down before them were more entertaining than the ladies and gentlemen in the novels. They looked at them constantly from under their umbrellas; they learned to know them all by sight. Many of their fellow-visitors were invalids,——mild, slow-moving consumptives. But that women enjoy the exercise of pity, I should have said that these pale promenaders were a saddening spectacle. In several of them, however, our friends took a personal interest; they watched them from day to day; they noticed their changing colour; they had their ideas about who was getting better and who was getting worse. They did little, however, in the way of making acquaintances,——partly because consumptive people are no great talkers, and partly because this was also Diana's disposition. She said to her friend that they had not come to Europe to pay morning-calls; they had left their best bonnets and card-cases behind them. At the bottom of her reserve was the apprehension that she should be admired; which was not fatuity, but simply an inference based upon uncomfortable experience. She had seen in Europe, for the first time, certain horrid men,——polished adventurers, with. offensive looks and mercenary thoughts;. and she had a wholesome fear that one of these gentlemen might approach her through some accidental breach in her reserve. Agatha Gosling, who had neither in reminiscence nor in prospect the same reasons for being on the defensive, would have been glad to extend the circle of her intimacy, and would even have consented to put on a best bonnet for the purpose. But she had to content herself with an occasional murmur of small talk, on a bench before the sea, with two or three English ladies of the botanizing class; jovial little spinsters who wore stout boots, gauntlets, and “uglies,” and in pursuit of wayside flowers scrambled into places where the first-mentioned articles were uncompromisingly visible. For the rest, Agatha contented herself with spinning suppositions about the people she never spoke to. She framed a great deal of hypothetic gossip, invented theories and explanations,——generally of the most charitable quality. Her companion took no part in these harmless devisings, except to listen to them with an indolent smile. She seldom honoured her fellow-mortals with finding apologies for them, and if they wished her to read their history, they must write it out in the largest letters.

There was one person at Nice upon whose biography, if it had been laid before her in this fashion, she probably would have bestowed a certain amount of attention. Agatha had noticed the gentleman first; or Agatha, at least, had first spoken of him. He was young and he looked interesting; Agatha had indulged in a good deal of wondering as to whether or no he belonged to the invalid category. She preferred to believe that one of his lungs was affected; it certainly made him more interesting. He used to stroll about by himself and sit for a long time in the sun, with a book peeping out of his pocket. This book he never opened; he was always staring at the sea. I say always, but my phrase demands an immediate modification; he looked at the sea whenever he was not looking at Diana Belfield. He was tall and fair, slight, and, as Agatha Gosling said, aristocratic-looking. He dressed with a certain careless elegance, which Agatha deemed picturesque; she declared one day that he reminded her of a love-sick prince. She learned eventually from one of the botanizing spinsters that he was not a prince, that he was simply an English gentleman, Mr. Reginald Longstaff. There remained the possibility that he was love-sick; but this point could not be so easily settled. Agatha's informant had assured her, however, that if they were not princes, the Longstaff's, who came from a part of the country in which she had visited, and owned great estates there, had a pedigree which many princes might envy. It was one of the oldest and the best of English names; they were one of the innumerable untitled country families who held their heads as high as the highest. This poor Mr. Longstaff was a beautiful specimen of a young English gentleman; he looked so gentle, yet so brave; so modest, yet so cultivated! The ladies spoke of him habitually as poor Mr. Longstaff, for they now took for granted there was something the matter with him. At last Agatha Gosling discovered what it was, and made a solemn proclamation of the same. The matter with poor Mr. Longstaff was simply that he was in love with Diana! It was certainly natural to suppose he was in love with some one, and, as Agatha said, it could not possibly be with herself. Mr. Longstaff was pale, with crumpled locks; he never spoke to any one; he was evidently preoccupied, and this mild, candid face was a sufficient proof that the weight on his heart was not a bad conscience. What could it be, then, but an unrequited passion? It was, however, equally pertinent to inquire why Mr. Longstaff took no steps to bring about a requital.

“Why in the world does he not ask to be introduced to you?” Agatha Gosling demanded of her companion.

Diana replied, quite without eagerness, that it was plainly because he had nothing to say to her, and she declared with a trifle more emphasis that she was incapable of furnishing him a topic of conversation. She added that she thought they had gossipped enough about the poor man, and that if by any chance he should have the bad taste to speak to them, she should certainly go away and leave him alone with Miss Gosling. It is true, however, that at an earlier period, she had let fall the remark that he was quite the most distinguished person at Nice; and afterward, though she was never the first to allude to him, she had more than once let her companion pursue the theme for some time without reminding her of its futility. The one person to whom Mr. Longstaff was observed to speak was an elderly man of foreign aspect who approached him occasionally in the most deferential manner, and whom Agatha Gosling supposed to be his servant. This individual was apparently an Italian; he had an obsequious attitude, a pair of grizzled whiskers, an insinuating smile. He seemed to come to Mr. Longstaff for orders; presently he went away to execute them, and Agatha noticed that on retiring, he always managed to pass in front of her companion, on whom he fixed his respectful but penetrating gaze. “He knows the secret,” she always said, with gentle jocoseness; “he knows what is the matter with his master and he wants to see whether he approves of you. Old servants never want their masters to marry, and I think this worthy man is rather afraid of you. At any rate, the way he stares at you tells the whole story.”

“Every one stares at me!” said Diana, wearily. “A cat may look at a king.”

As the weeks went by, Agatha Gosling quite made up her mind that it was Mr. Longstaff's lungs. The poor young mans invalid character was now most apparent; he could hardly hold up his head or drag one foot after the other; his servant was always near him to give him an arm or to hand him an extra overcoat. No one, indeed, knew, with certainty, that he was consumptive; but Agatha agreed with the lady who had given the information about his pedigree, that this fact was in itself extremely suspicious; for, as the little Englishwoman forcibly remarked, unless he were ill, why should he make such a mystery of it? Consumption declaring itself in a young man of family and fortune was particularly sad; such people had often diplomatic reasons for pretending to enjoy excellent health. It kept the legacy-hunters and the hungry next-of-kin from worrying them to death. Agatha observed that this poor gentleman's last hours seemed likely to be only too lonely. She felt very much like offering to nurse him; for, being no relation, he could not accuse her of mercenary motives. From time to time he got up from the bench where he habitually sat, and strolled slowly past the two friends. Every time that he came near them, Agatha had a singular feeling,——a conviction that now he was really going to speak to them, in tones of the most solemn courtesy. She could not fancy him speaking otherwise. He began, at a distance, by fixing his grave, soft eyes on Diana, and, as he advanced, you would have said that he was coming straight up to her with some tremulous compliment. But as he drew nearer, his intentness seemed to falter; he strolled more slowly, he looked away at the sea, and he passed in front of her without having the courage to let his eyes rest upon her. Then he passed back again in the same fashion, sank down upon his bench, fatigued apparently by his aimless stroll, and fell into a melancholy reverie. To enumerate these small incidents in his deportment is to give it a melodramatic cast which it was far from possessing; something in his manner saved it from the shadow of impertinence, and it may be affirmed that not a single idler on the sunny shore suspected his speechless attentions.

“I wonder why it doesn't annoy us more that he should look at us so much,” said Agatha Gosling, one day.

“That who should look at us?” asked Diana, not at all affectedly.

Agatha fixed her eyes for a moment on her friend, and then said gently:

“Mr. Longstaff. Now, don't say Who is Mr. Longstaff?” she added.

“I have got to learn, really,” said Diana, “that the person you appear to mean, does look at us. I have never caught him in the act.”

“That is because whenever you turn your eyes toward him he looks away. He is afraid to meet them. But I see him. “

These words were exchanged one day as the two friends sat as usual before the twinkling sea; and, beyond them, as usual, lounged Reginald Longstaff. Diana bent her head faintly forward and glanced toward him. He was looking full at her and their eyes met, apparently for the first time. Diana dropped her own upon her book again, and then, after a silence of some moments, “It does annoy me,” she said. Presently she added that she would go home and write a letter, and, though she had never taken a step in Europe without having Agatha by her side, Miss Gosling now allowed her to depart unattended. “You wont mind going alone?” Agatha had asked. “It is but three minutes, you know.”

Diana replied that she preferred to go alone, and she moved away, with her parasol over her shoulder.

Agatha Gosling had a particular reason for this rupture of their maidenly custom. She felt a strong conviction that if she were left alone, Mr. Longstaff would come and speak to her and say something very important, and she deferred to this conviction without the sense of doing anything immodest. There was something solemn about it; it was a sort of presentiment; but it did not frighten her; it only made her feel very kind and appreciative. It is true that when at the end of ten minutes (they had seemed rather long), she saw him rise from his seat and slowly come toward her, she was conscious of a certain trepidation. Mr. Longstaff drew near; at last, he was close to her; he stopped and stood looking at her. She had averted her head, so as not to appear to expect him; but now she looked round again, and he very gravely lifted his hat.

“May I take the liberty of sitting down?” he asked.

Agatha bowed in silence, and, to make room for him, moved a blue shawl of Diana's, which was lying on the bench; he slowly sank into the place and then said very gently:

“I have ventured to speak to you, because I have something particular to say.” His voice trembled and he was extremely pale. His eyes, which Agatha thought very handsome, had a remarkable expression.

“I am afraid you are ill,” she said, with great kindness. “I have often noticed you and pitied you.”

“I thought you did, a little,” the young man answered. “That is why I made up my mind to speak to you.”

“You are getting worse,” said Agatha, softly.

“Yes, I am getting worse; I am dying. I am perfectly conscious of it; I have no illusions. I am weaker every day; I shall last but a few weeks.” This was said very simply; sadly but not lugubriously.

But Agatha felt almost awe-stricken; there stirred in her heart a delicate sense of sisterhood with this beautiful young man who sat there and talked thus submissively of death.

“Can nothing be done?” she said.

He shook his head and smiled a little. “Nothing but to try and get what pleasure I can from this little remnant of life.”

Though he smiled she felt that he was very serious; that he was, indeed, deeply agitated, and trying to master his emotion.

“I am afraid you get very little pleasure,” Agatha rejoined. “You seem entirely alone.”

“I am entirely alone. I have no family,——no near relations. I am absolutely alone.” Agatha rested her eyes on him compassionately, and then——

“You ought to have spoken to us,” she said.

He sat looking at her; he had taken off his hat; he was slowly passing his hand over his forehead. “You see I do——at last!”

“You wanted to before?”

“Very often.”

“I thought so!” said Agatha, with a candour which was in itself a dignity.

“But I couldn't,” said Mr. Longstaff. “I never saw you alone.”

Before she knew it Agatha was blushing a little; for, to the ear, simply, his words implied that it was to her only he would appeal for the pleasure he had coveted. But the next instant she had become conscious that what he meant was simply that he admired her companion so much that he was afraid of her, and that, daring to speak to herself; he thought her a much smaller and less interesting personage. Her blush immediately faded; for there was no resentment to keep the colour in her cheek; and there was no resentment still when she perceived that, though her neighbour was looking straight at her, with his inspired, expanded eyes, he was thinking too much of Diana to have noticed this little play of confusion.

“Yes, its very true,” she said. “It is the first time my friend has left me.”

“She is very beautiful,” said Mr. Longstaff.

“Very beautiful,——and as good as she is beautiful.

“Yes, yes,” he rejoined , solemnly. “I am sure of that. I know it!”

“I know it even better than you,” said Agatha, smiling a little.

“Then you will have all the more patience with what I want to say to you. It is very strange; it will make you think, at first, that I am perhaps out of my mind. But I am not; I am thoroughly reasonable. You will see.” Then he paused a moment; his voice had begun to tremble again.

“I know what you are going to say,” said Agatha, very gently. “You are in love with my friend.”

Mr. Longstaff gave her a look of devoted gratitude; he lifted up the edge of the blue shawl, which he had often seen Diana wear, and pressed it to his lips.

“I am extremely grateful!” he exclaimed. “You don't think me crazy, then?”

“If you are crazy, there have been a great many madmen!” said Agatha.

“Of course there have been a great many. I have said that to myself; and it has helped me. They have gained nothing but the pleasure of their love, and I therefore, in gaining nothing and having nothing, am not worse off than the rest. But they had more than I, didn't they? You see I have had absolutely nothing,——not even a glance,” he went on. “I have never even seen her look at me. I have not only never spoken to her, but I have never been near enough to speak to her. This is all I have ever had, to lay my hand on something she has worn! and yet for the past month I have thought of her night and day. Sitting over there, a hundred rods away, simply because she was sitting in this place, in the same sunshine, looking out on the same sea: that was happiness enough for me. I am dying, but for the last five weeks that has kept me alive. It was for that I got up every day and came out here; but for that, I should have staid at home and never have got up again. I have never sought to be presented to her, because I didn't wish to trouble her for nothing. It seemed to me it would be an impertinence to tell her of my admiration. I have nothing to offer her,——I am but the shadow of a living man, and if I were to say to her, 'Madam, I love you,' she could only answer, 'Well, sir,' what then? Nothing——nothing! To speak to her of what I felt seemed only to open the lid of a grave in her face. It was more delicate not to do that; so I kept my distance and said nothing. Even this, as I say, has been a happiness, but it has been a happiness that has tired me out. This is the last of it. I must give up and make an end!” And he stopped, panting a little and apparently exhausted with his eloquence.

Agatha had always heard of love at first sight; she had read of it in poems and romances, but she had never been so near to it as this. It seemed to her most beautiful, and she believed in it devoutly. It made Mr. Longstaff brilliantly interesting; it cast a glory over the details of his face and person, and the pleading inflections of his voice. The little English ladies had been right; he was certainly a perfect gentleman. She could trust him.

“Perhaps if you stay at home awhile you will get better,” she said, soothingly.

Her tone seemed to him such an indication that she accepted the propriety and naturalness of his passion that he put out his hand and for an instant laid it on her own.

“I knew you were reasonable——I knew I could talk to you. But I shall not get well. All the great doctors say so, and I believe them. If the passionate desire to get well for a particular purpose could work a miracle and cure a mortal disease, I should have seen the miracle two months ago. To get well and have a right to speak to your friend——that was my passionate desire. But I am worse than ever; I am very weak and I shall not be able to come out any more. It seemed to me to-day that I should never see you again, and yet I wanted so much to be able to tell you this! It made me very unhappy. What a wonderful chance it is that she went away! I must be grateful; if heaven doesn't grant my great prayers it grants my small ones. I beg you to render me this service. Tell her what I have told you. Not now——not till I am gone. Don't trouble her with it while I am in life. Please promise me that. But when I am dead it will seem less importunate, because then you can speak of me in the past. It will be like a story. My servant will come and tell you. Then say to her You were his last thought, and it was his last wish that you should know it.” He slowly got up and put out his hand; his servant, who had been standing at a distance, came forward with obsequious solemnity, as if it were part of his duty to adapt his deportment to the tone of his masters conversation. Agatha Gosling took the young man's hand and he stood and looked at her a moment longer. She too had risen to her feet; she was much impressed.

“You won't tell her until after?” he said pleadingly. She shook her head. “And then you will tell her, faithfully?” She nodded, he pressed her hand, and then, having raised his hat, he took his servants arm and slowly moved away.

Agatha kept her word; she said nothing to Diana about her interview. The young Americans came out and sat upon the shore the next day, and the next, and the next, and Agatha watched intently for Mr. Longstaff's re-appearance. But she watched in vain; day after day he was absent, and his absence confirmed his sad prediction. She thought all this a wonderful thing to happen to a woman, and as she glanced askance at her beautiful companion, she was almost irritated at seeing her sit there so careless and serene, while a poor young man was dying, as one might say, of love for her. At moments she wondered whether, in spite of her promise, it was not her Christian duty to tell Diana his story and give her the chance to go to him. But it occurred to Agatha, who knew very well that her companion had a certain stately pride in which she herself was lacking, that even if she were told of his condition Diana might decline to do anything; and this she felt to be a most painful contingency. Besides, she had promised, and she always kept her promises. But her thoughts were constantly with Mr. Longstaff; and the romance of the affair. This made her melancholy and she talked much less than usual. Suddenly she was aroused from a reverie by hearing Diana express a careless curiosity as to what had become of the solitary young man who used to sit on the neighbouring bench and do them the honour to stare at them.

For almost the first time in her life, Agatha Gosling deliberately dissembled.

“He has either gone away, or he has taken to his bed. I believe he is dying alone, in some wretched mercenary lodging.”

“I prefer to believe something more cheerful,” said Diana. “I believe he is gone to Paris and is eating a beautiful dinner at the Trois Freres Provencaux.”

Agatha for a moment said nothing; and then——

“I don't think you care what becomes of him,” she ventured to observe.

“My dear child, why should I care?” Diana demanded.

And Agatha Gosling was forced to admit that there really was no particular reason. But the event contradicted her. Three days afterward she took a long drive with her friend, from which they returned only as dusk was closing in. As they descended from the carriage at the door of their lodging she observed a figure standing in the street, slightly apart, which even in the early darkness had an air of familiarity. A second glance assured her that Mr. Longstaff's servant was hovering there in the hope of catching her attention. She immediately determined to give him a liberal measure of it. Diana left the vehicle and passed into the house, while the coachman fortunately asked for orders for the morrow. Agatha briefly gave such as were necessary, and then, before going in, turned to the hovering figure. It approached on tiptoe, hat in hand, and shaking it's head very sadly. The old man wore an air of animated affliction which indicated that Mr. Longstaff was a generous master, and he proceeded to address Miss Gosling in that macaronic French which is usually at the command of Italian domestics who have seen the world.

“I stole away from my dear gentleman's bedside on purpose to have ten words with you. The old woman at the fruit-stall opposite told me that you had gone to drive, so I waited; but it seemed to me a thousand years till you returned!”

“But you have not left your master alone?” said Agatha.

“He has two Sisters of Charity——heaven reward them! They watch with him night and day. He is very low, pauvre cher homme!” And the old man looked at his interlocutress with that clear, human, sympathetic glance with which Italians of all classes bridge over the social gulf. Agatha felt that he knew his masters secret, and that she might discuss it with him freely.

“Is he dying?” she asked.

“That's the question, dear lady! He is very low. The doctors have given him up; but the doctors don't know his malady. They have felt his dear body all over, they have sounded his lungs, and looked at his tongue and counted his pulse; they know what he eats and drinks——it's soon told! But they haven't seen his mind; dear lady. I have; and so far I'm a better doctor than they. I know his secret——I know that he loves the beautiful girl above!” and the old man pointed to the upper windows of the house.

“Has your master taken you into his confidence?” Agatha demanded.

He hesitated a moment; then shaking his head a little and laying his hand on his heart——"Ah, dear lady,” he said, “the point is whether I have taken him into mine. I have not, I confess; he is too far gone. But I have determined to be his doctor and to try a remedy the others have never thought of. Will you help me?”

“If I can,” said Agatha. “What is your remedy?”

The old man pointed to the upper windows of the house again.

“Your lovely friend! Bring her to his bedside.”

“If he is dying,” said Agatha, “how would that help him?”

“He's dying for want of it. That's my idea at least, and I think its worth trying. If a young man loves a beautiful woman, and, having never so much as touched the tip of her glove, falls into a mortal illness and wastes away, it requires no great wit to see that his illness doesn't come from his having indulged himself too grossly. It comes rather from the opposite cause! If he sinks when she's away, perhaps he'll come up when she's there. At any rate, that's my theory; and any theory is good that will save a dying man. Let the Diana come and stand a moment by his bed, and lay her hand upon his. We shall see what happens. If he gets well, its worth while; if he doesn't, there is no harm done. A young lady risks nothing in going to see a poor gentleman who lies in a stupor between two holy women.”

Agatha was much impressed with this picturesque reasoning, but she answered that it was quite impossible that her beautiful friend should go upon this pious errand without a special invitation from Mr. Longstaff. Even should he beg Diana to come to him. Agatha was by no means sure her companion would go; but it was very certain she would not take such an extraordinary step at the mere suggestion of a servant.

“But you, dear lady, have the happiness not to be a servant,” the old man rejoined. “Let the suggestion be yours.”

“From me it could come with no force, for what am I supposed to know about your poor master?”

“You have not told the Diana what he told you the other day?”

Agatha answered this question by another question.

“Did he tell you what he had told me?” The old man tapped his forehead an instant and smiled.

“A good servant, you know, dear lady, needs never to be told things! If you have not repeated my masters words to your beautiful friend, I beg you most earnestly to do so. I am afraid she is rather cold.”

Agatha glanced a moment at the upper windows and then she gave a silent nod. She wondered greatly to find herself discussing Diana's character with this aged menial; but the situation was so strange and romantic that one's old landmarks of propriety were quite obliterated, and it seemed natural that a valet de chambre should be as frank and familiar as a servant in an old-fashioned comedy.

“If it is necessary that my dear master shall send for the young lady,” Mr. Longstaff's domestic resumed, “I think I can promise you that he will. Let me urge you, meanwhile, to talk to her! If she is cold, melt her down. Prepare her to find him very interesting. If you could see him, poor gentleman, lying there as still and handsome as if he were his own monument in a campo santo, I think he would interest you.”

This seemed to Agatha a very touching image, but she came to a sense that her interview with Mr. Longstaff's representative, now unduly prolonged, was assuming a nocturnal character. She abruptly brought it to a close, after having assured her interlocutor that she would reflect upon what he had told her, and she rejoined her companion in the deepest agitation. Late that evening her agitation broke out. She went into Diana's room, where she found this young lady standing white-robed before her mirror, with her auburn tresses rippling down to her knees; and then, taking her two hands, she told the story of the young Englishman's passion, told of his coming to talk to her that day that Diana had left her alone on the bench by the sea, and of his venerable valet having, a couple of hours before, sought speech of her on the same subject. Diana listened, at first with a rosy flush, and then with a cold, an almost cruel, frown.

“Take pity upon him,” said Agatha Gosling, “take pity upon him and go and see him.”

“I don't understand” said her companion, “and it seems to me very disagreeable. What is Mr. Longstaff to me?” But before they separated, Agatha had persuaded her to say that if a message really should come from the young mans death-bed, she would not refuse him the light of her presence.

The message really came, brought of course by the invalids zealous chamberlain. He re-appeared on the morrow, announcing that his master very humbly begged for the honour of ten minutes conversation with the two ladies. They consented to follow him, and he led the way to Mr. Longstaff's apartments. Diana still wore her cloudy brow, but it made her look terribly handsome. Under the old mans guidance they passed through a low green door in a yellow wall, across a tangled garden full of orange-trees and winter roses, and into a white-wainscoted saloon, where they were presently left alone before a great classic, Empire clock, perched upon a frigid southern chimney-place. They waited, however, but a few moments; the door of an adjoining room opened and the Sisters of Charity, in white-winged hoods and with their hands thrust into the loose sleeves of the opposite arm, came forth and stood with downcast eyes on either side of the threshold. Then the old servant appeared between them and beckoned to the two young girls to advance. The latter complied with a certain hesitation, and he led them into the chamber of the dying man. Here, pointing to the bed, he silently left them and withdrew; not closing, however, the door of communication of the saloon, where he took up his station with the Sisters of Charity.

Diana and her companion stood together in the middle of the darker room, waiting for an invitation to approach their summoner. He lay in his bed, propped up on pillows, with his arms outside the counterpane. For a moment he simply gazed at them; he was as white as the sheet that covered him, and he certainly looked like a dying man. But he had the strength to bend forward and to speak in a soft, distinct voice.

“Would you be so kind,” said Mr. Longstaff, “as to come nearer?”

Agatha Gosling gently pushed her friend forward, but she followed her to the bedside. Diana stood there, her frown had melted away; and the young man sank back upon his pillows and looked at her. A faint colour came into his face, and he clasped his two hands together on his breast. For some moments he simply gazed at the beautiful girl before him. It was an awkward situation for her, and Agatha expected her at any moment to turn away in disgust. But, slowly, her look of proud compulsion, of mechanical compliance, was exchanged for something more patient and pitying. The young Englishman's face expressed a kind of spiritual ecstasy which, it was impossible not to feel, gave a peculiar sanctity to the occasion.

“It was very generous of you to come,” he said at last. “I hardly ventured to hope you would. I suppose you know——I suppose your friend, who listened to me so kindly, has told you.”

“Yes, she knows,” murmured Agatha “she knows.”

“I did not intend you should know until after my death,” he went on “but,——"and he paused a moment and shook his clasped hands together, “I couldn't wait! And when I felt that I couldn't wait, a new idea, a new desire, came into my mind.” He was silent again for an instant, still looking with worshipful entreaty at Diana. The colour in his face deepened. “It is something that you may do for me. You will think it a most extraordinary request; but, in my position, a man grows bold. Dear lady, will you marry me?”

“Oh, dear!” cried Agatha Gosling, just audibly. Her companion said nothing. Her attitude seemed to say that in this remarkable situation, one thing was no more surprising than another. But she paid Mr. Longstaff's proposal the respect of slowly seating herself in a chair which had been placed near his bed; here she rested in maidenly majesty, with her eyes fixed on the ground.

“It will help me to die happy, since die I must!” the young man continued. “It will enable me to do something for you the only thing I can do. I have property, lands, houses, a great many beautiful things,——things I have loved, and am very sorry to be leaving behind me. Lying here helpless and hopeless through so many days, the thought has come to me of what a bliss it would be to know that they would rest in your hands. If you were my wife, they would rest there safely. You might be spared much annoyance; and it is not only that. It is a fancy I have beyond that. It would be the feeling of it! I am fond of life. I don't want to die; but since I must die, it would be a happiness to have got just this out of life——this joining of our hands before a priest. You could go away then. For you it would make no change it would be no burden. But I should have a few hours in which to lie and think of my happiness.”

There was something in the young man's tone so simple and sincere, so tender and urgent, that Agatha Gosling was touched to tears. She turned away to hide them, and went on tiptoe to the window, where she wept silently. Diana apparently was not unmoved. She raised her eyes, and let them rest kindly on those of Mr. Longstaff; who continued softly to urge his proposal. “It would be a great charity,” he said, a great condescension; “and it can produce no consequence to you that you could regret. It can only give you a larger liberty. You know very little about me, but I have a feeling that, so far as belief goes, you can believe me, and that is all I ask of you. I don't ask you to love me, that takes time. It is something I cannot pretend to. It is only to consent to the form, the ceremony. I have seen the English clergyman; he says he will perform it. He will tell you, besides, all about me,——that I am an English gentleman, and that the name I offer you is one of the best in the world.”

It was strange to hear a dying man lie there and argue his point in this categorical fashion; but now, apparently, his argument was finished. There was a deep silence, and Agatha thought it would be delicate on her own part to retire. She moved quietly into the adjoining room, where the two Sisters of Charity still stood with their hands in their sleeves, and the old Italian valet was taking snuff with a melancholy gesture, like a perplexed diplomatist. Agatha turned her back to these people, and, approaching a window again, stood looking out into the garden upon the orange-trees and the winter roses. It seemed to her that she had been listening to the most beautiful, most romantic, and most eloquent of declarations. How could Diana be insensible to it? She earnestly hoped her companion would consent to the solemn and interesting ceremony proposed by Mr. Longstaff, and though her delicacy had prompted her to withdraw, it permitted her to listen eagerly to what Diana would say. Then (as she heard nothing) it was eclipsed by the desire to go back and whisper, with a sympathetic kiss, a word of counsel. She glanced round again at the Sisters of Charity, who appeared to have perceived that the moment was one of suspense. One of them detached herself; and, as Agatha returned, followed her a few steps into the room. Diana had got up from her chair. She was looking about her uneasily. She grasped at Agatha's hand. Reginald Longstaff lay there with his wasted face and his brilliant eyes, looking at them both. Agatha took her friends two hands in both her own.

“It is very little to do, dearest,” she murmured, “and it will make him very happy.”

The young man appeared to have heard her, and he repeated her words in a tone of intense entreaty.

“It is very little to do, dearest.”

Diana looked round at him an instant. Then, for an instant, she covered her face with her two hands. Removing them, but holding them still against her cheeks, she looked at her companion with eyes that Agatha always remembered——eyes through which a thin gleam of mockery flashed from the seriousness of her face.

“Suppose, after all, he should get well?” she murmured.

Longstaff heard it; he gave a long, soft moan, and turned away. The Sister immediately approached his bed, on the other side, dropped on her knees and bent over him, while he leaned his head against the great white cape along which her crucifix depended. Diana stood a moment longer, looking at him; then, gathering her shawl together with a great dignity, she slowly walked out of the room. Agatha could do nothing but follow her. The old Italian, holding the door open for them to pass out, made them an exaggerated obeisance.

In the garden Diana paused, with a flush in her cheek, and said,

“If he could die with it, he could die without it!” But beyond the garden gate, in the empty sunny street, she suddenly burst into tears.

Agatha made no reproaches, no comments; but her companion, during the rest of the day, spoke of Mr. Longstaff several times with an almost passionate indignation. She pronounced his conduct indelicate, egotistic, impertinent; she declared that she had found the scene most revolting. Agatha, for the moment, remained silent, but the next day she attempted to suggest something in apology for the poor young man. Then Diana, with great emphasis, begged her to be so good as never to mention his name again; and she added that he had put her completely out of humour with Nice, from which place they would immediately take their departure. This they did without delay; they began to travel again. Agatha heard no more of Reginald Longstaff; the English ladies who had been her original source of information with regard to him had now left Nice; otherwise she would have written to them for news. That is, she would have thought of writing to them; I suspect that, on the whole, she would have denied herself this satisfaction, on the ground of loyalty to her friend. Agatha, at any rate, could only drop a tear, at solitary hours, upon the young mans unanswered prayer and early death. It must be confessed, however, that sometimes, as the weeks elapsed, a certain faint displeasure mingled itself with her sympathy——a wish that, roughly speaking, poor Mr. Longstaff had left them alone. Since that strange interview at his bedside things had not gone well; the charm of their earlier contentment seemed broken. Agatha said to herself that, really, if she were superstitious, she might fancy that Diana's conduct on this occasion had brought them under an evil charm. It was no superstition, certainly, to think that this young lady had lost a certain evenness of temper. She was impatient, absent-minded, indifferent, capricious. She expressed unaccountable opinions and proposed unnatural plans. It is true that disagreeable things were constantly happening to them——things which would have taxed the most unruffled spirit. Their post-horses broke down, their postilions were impertinent, their luggage went astray, their servants betrayed them. The heavens themselves seemed to join in the conspiracy, and for days together were dark and ungenerous, treating them only to wailing winds and watery clouds. It was, in a large measure, in the light of after years that Agatha judged this period, but even at the time she felt it to be depressing, uncomfortable, unnatural. Diana apparently shared this feeling, though she never openly avowed it. She took refuge in a kind of haughty silence, and whenever a new contretemps came to her knowledge, she simply greeted it with a bitter smile which Agatha always interpreted as an ironical reflection on poor, fantastic, obtrusive Mr. Longstaff who, through some mysterious action upon the machinery of nature, had turned the tide of their fortunes. At the end of the summer, suddenly, Diana proposed they should go home, in the tone of a person who gives up a hopeless struggle. Agatha assented, and the two ladies returned to America, much to the relief of Miss Gosling, who had an uncomfortable sense that there was something unexpressed and unregulated between them, which gave their conversation a resemblance to a sultry morning. But at home they separated very tenderly, for Agatha had to go and devote herself to her nearer kinsfolk in the country. These good people after her long absence were exacting, so that for two years she saw nothing of her late companion.

She often, however, heard from her, and Diana figured in the town gossip that was occasionally wafted to her rural home. She sometimes figured strangely——as a rattling coquette, who carried on flirtations by the hundred and broke hearts by the dozen. This had not been Diana's former character and Agatha found matter for meditation in the change. But the young lady's own letters said little of her admirers and displayed no trophies. They came very fitfully sometimes at the rate of a dozen a month and sometimes not at all; but they were usually of a serious and abstract cast and contained the authors opinions upon life, death, religion and immortality. Mistress of her actions and of a pretty fortune, it might have been expected that news would come in trustworthy form of Diana's at last accepting one of her rumoured lovers. Such news in fact came, and it was apparently trustworthy, inasmuch as it proceeded from the young lady herself. She wrote to Agatha that she was to be married, and Agatha immediately congratulated her upon her happiness. Then Diana wrote back that though she was to be married she was not at all happy; and she shortly afterward added that she had broken off her projected union and that her felicity was smaller than ever. Poor Agatha was sorely perplexed and found it a comfort that a month after this her friend should have sent her a peremptory summons to come to her. She immediately obeyed. Arriving, after a long journey, at the dwelling of her young hostess, she saw Diana at the farther end of the drawing-room, with her back turned, looking out of the window. She was evidently watching for Agatha, but Miss Gosling had come in, by accident, through a private entrance which was not visible from the window. She gently approached her friend and then Diana turned. She had her two hands laid upon her cheeks and her eyes were sad; her face and attitude suggested something that Agatha had seen before and kept the memory of. While she kissed her Agatha remembered that it was just so she had stood for that last moment before poor Mr. Longstaff.

“Will you come abroad with me again? ” Diana asked. “I am very ill.”

“Dearest, what is the matter?” said Agatha.

“I don't know; I believe I am dying. They tell me this place is bad for me; that I must have another climate; that I must move about. Will you take care of me? I shall be very easy to take care of now.”

Agatha, for all answer, embraced her afresh, and as soon after this as possible the two friends embarked again for Europe. Miss Gosling had lent herself the more freely to this scheme as her companions appearance seemed a striking confirmation of her words. Not, indeed, that she looked as if she were dying, but in the two years that had elapsed since their separation she had wasted and faded. She looked more than two years older and the brilliancy of her beauty was dimmed. She was pale and languid, and she moved more slowly than when she seemed a goddess treading the forest leaves. The beautiful statue had grown human and taken on some of the imperfections of humanity. And yet the doctors by no means affirmed that she had a mortal malady, and when one of them was asked by an inquisitive matron why he had recommended this young lady to cross the seas, he replied with a smile that it was a principle in his system to prescribe the remedies that his patients acutely desired.

At present the fair travellers had no misadventures. The broken charm had removed itself; the heavens smiled upon them and their postilions treated them like princesses. Diana, too, had completely recovered her native placidity; she was the gentlest, the most docile, the most reasonable of women. She was silent and subdued as was natural in an invalid; though in one important particular her demeanour was certainly at variance with the idea of debility. She relished movement much more than rest, and constant change of place became the law of her days. She wished to see all the places that she had not seen before, and all the old ones over again.

“If I am really dying,” she said, smiling softly, “I must leave my farewell cards everywhere.” So she lived in a great open carriage, leaning back in it and looking, right and left, at everything she passed. On her former journey to Europe she had seen but little of England, and now she would visit the whole of this famous island. So she rolled for weeks through the beautiful English landscape, past meadows and hedge-rows, over the avenues of great estates and under the walls of castles and abbeys. For the English parks and manors, the Halls and Courts, she had an especial admiration, and into the grounds of such as were open to appreciative tourists she made a point of penetrating. Here she stayed her carriage beneath the oaks and beeches, and sat for an hour at a time listening to nightingales and watching browsing deer. She never failed to visit a residence that lay on her road, and as soon as she arrived at a place she inquired punctiliously whether there were any fine countryseats in the neighbourhood. In this fashion she spent a whole summer. Through the autumn she continued to wander restlessly; she visited, on the Continent, a hundred watering-places and travellers resorts. The beginning of the winter found her in Rome, where she confessed to extreme fatigue and determined to seek repose.

“I am weary, weary,” she said to her companion. “I didn't know how weary I was. I feel like sinking down in this City of Rest, and resting here forever.”

She took a lodging in an old palace, where her chamber was hung with ancient tapestries, and her drawing-room decorated with the arms of a pope. Here, giving way to her fatigue, she ceased to wander. The only thing she did was to go every day to St. Peters. She went nowhere else. She sat at her window all day with a big book in her lap, which she never read, looking out into a Roman garden at a fountain splashing into a weedy alcove, and half a dozen nymphs in mottled marble. Sometimes she told her companion that she was happier this way than she had ever been, in this way, and in going to St. Peters. In the great church she often spent the whole afternoon. She had a servant behind her, carrying a stool. He placed her stool against a marble pilaster, and she sat there for a long time, looking up into the airy hollow of the dome and over the peopled pavement. She noticed every one who passed her, but Agatha, lingering beside her, felt less at liberty, she hardly knew why, to murmur a sportive commentary on the people about them than she had felt when they sat upon the shore at Nice.

One day Agatha left her and strolled about the church by herself. The ecclesiastical life of Rome had not shrunken to its present smallness, and in one corner or another of St. Peters, there was always some point of worship. Agatha found entertainment, and was absent for half an hour. When she came back, she found her companions place deserted, and she sat down on the empty stool to await her re-appearance. Some time elapsed and she wandered away in quest of her. She found her at last, near one of the side-altars; but she was not alone. A gentleman stood before her whom she appeared just to have encountered. Her face was very pale, and its expression led Agatha to look straightway at the stranger. Then she saw he was no stranger; he was Reginald Longstaff! He, too, evidently had been much startled, but he was already recovering himself. He stood very gravely an instant longer; then he silently bowed to the two ladies and turned away.

Agatha felt at first as if she had seen a ghost; but the impression was immediately corrected by the fact that Mr. Longstaff's aspect was very much less ghostly than it had been in life. He looked like a strong man; he held himself upright and had a flush of colour. What Agatha saw in Diana s face was not surprise; it was a pale radiance which she waited a moment to give a name to. Diana put out her hand and laid it in her arm, and her touch helped Agatha to know what it was that her face expressed. Then she felt too that this knowledge itself was not a surprise; he seemed to have been waiting for it. She looked at her friend again and Diana was beautiful. Diana blushed and became more beautiful yet. Agatha led her back to her seat near the marble pilaster.

“So you were right,” Agatha said presently. “He would, after all, have got well.”

Diana would not sit down; she motioned to her servant to bring away the stool, and continued to move toward the door. She said nothing until she stood without, in the great square of the colonnades and fountains. Then she spoke:

“I am right now, but I was wrong then. He got well because I refused him. I gave him a hurt that cured him.”

That evening, beneath the Roman lamps, in the great drawing-room of the arms of the pope, a remarkable conversation took place between the two friends. Diana wept and hid her face; but her tears and her shame were gratuitous. Agatha felt, as I have said, that she had already guessed all the unexplained, and it was needless for her companion to tell her that three weeks after she had refused Reginald Longstaff, she insanely loved him. It was needless that Diana should confess that his image had never been out of her mind, that she believed he was still among the living, and that she had come back to Europe with a desperate hope of meeting him. It was in this hope that she had wandered from town to town, and noticed all the passers; and it was in this hope that she had lingered in so many English parks. She knew her love was very strange; she could only say it had consumed her. It had all come upon her afterward,——in retrospect, in meditation. Or rather, she supposed, it had been there always since she first saw him, and the revulsion from displeasure to pity, after she left his bedside, had brought it out. And with it came the faith that he had indeed got well, both of his malady and of his own passion. This was her punishment! And then she spoke with a divine simplicity which Agatha, weeping a little too, wished that, if this possibility were a fact, the young man might have heard. “I am so glad he is well and strong. And that he looks so handsome and so good!” And she presently added, “Of course he has got well only to hate me. He wishes never to see me again. Very good. I have had my wish; I have seen him once more. That was what I wanted and I can die content.”

It seemed in fact, as if she were going to die. She went no more to St. Peters, and exposed herself to no more encounters with Mr. Longstaff. She sat at her window and looked out at the mottled dryads and the cypresses, or wandered about her quarter of the palace with a vaguely smiling resignation. Agatha watched her with a sadness that was less submissive. This too was something that she had heard of, that she had read of in poetry and fable, but that she had never supposed she should see ; her companion was dying of love! Agatha pondered many things and resolved upon several. The first of these latter was sending for the doctor. This personage came, and Diana let him look at her through his spectacles, and hold her white wrist. He announced that she was ill, and she smiled and said she knew it; and then he gave her a little phial of gold-coloured fluid, which he bade her to drink. He recommended her to remain in Rome, as the climate exactly suited her complaint. Agatha's second desire was to see Mr. Longstaff, who had appealed to her, she reflected, in the day of his own tribulation, and whom she therefore had a right to approach at present. She disbelieved, too, that the passion which led him to take that extraordinary step at Nice was extinct; such passions as that never died. If he had made no further attempt to see Diana it was because he believed that she was still as cold as when she turned away from his death-bed. It must be added, moreover, that Agatha felt a lawful curiosity to learn how from that death-bed he had risen again into blooming manhood.

On this last point, all elucidation left something unexplained. Agatha went to St. Peters, feeling sure, that sooner or later she should encounter him there. At the end of a week she perceived him, and seeing her, he immediately came and spoke to her. As Diana had said, he was now extremely handsome, and he looked particularly good. He was a blooming, gallant, quiet, young English gentleman. He seemed much embarrassed, but his manner to Agatha expressed the highest consideration.

“You must think me a dreadful impostor,” he said, very gravely. “But I was dying, or I believed I was.”

“And by what miracle did you recover?”

He was silent a moment, and then he said:

“I suppose it was by the miracle of wounded pride!” Then she noticed that he asked nothing about Diana; and presently she felt that he knew she was thinking of this. “The strangest part of it,” he added, “was that when I came back to strength, what had gone before had become as a simple dream. And what happened to me here the other day, he went on, failed to make it a reality again!”

Agatha looked at him a moment in silence, and saw again that he was handsome and kind; and then dropping a sigh over the wonderful mystery of things, she turned sadly away. That evening, Diana said to her: “I know that you have seen him!” Agatha came to her and kissed her. “And I am nothing to him now?” My own dearest murmured Agatha.

Diana had drunk the little phial of gold-coloured liquid; but after this, she ceased to wander about the palace; she never left her room. The old doctor was with her constantly now, and he continued to say that the air of Rome was very good for her complaint. Agatha watched her in helpless sadness; she saw her fading and sinking, and yet she was unable to comfort her. She tried it once in saying hard things about Mr. Longstaff, in pointing out that he had not been honourable; rising herein to a sublime hypocrisy, for, on that last occasion at St. Peters, the poor girl had felt a renewed personal admiration,——the quickening of a private flame; she saw nothing but his good looks and his kind manner.

“What did he want——what did he mean, after all?” she ingenuously murmured, leaning over Diana's sofa. “Why should he have been wounded at what you said? It would have been part of the bargain that he should not get well. Did he mean to take an unfair advantage——to make you his wife under false pretences? When you put your finger on the weak spot, why should he resent it? No, it was not honourable.”

Diana smiled sadly; she had no false shame now, and she spoke of this thing as if it concerned another person.

“He would have counted on my forgiving him!” she said. A little while after this, she began to sink more rapidly. Then she called her friend to her, and said simply: “Send for him!” And as Agatha looked perplexed and distressed, she added, “I know he is still in Rome.”

Agatha at first was at a loss where to find him, but among the benefits of the papal dispensation, was the fact that the pontifical police could instantly help you to lay your hand upon any sojourner in the Eternal City. Mr. Longstaff had a passport in detention by the government, and this document formed a basis of instruction to the servant whom Agatha sent to investigate the authorities. The servant came back with the news that he had seen the distinguished stranger, who would wait upon the ladies at the hour they had proposed.

When this hour came and Mr. Longstaff was announced, Diana said to her companion that she must remain with her. It was an afternoon in spring; the high windows into the palace garden were open, and the room was filled with great sheaves and stacks of the abundant Roman flowers. Diana sat in a deep arm-chair.

It was certainly a difficult position for Reginald Longstaff. He stopped on the threshold and looked awhile at the woman to whom he had made his extraordinary offer; then, pale and agitated, he advanced rapidly toward her. He was evidently shocked at the state in which he found her; he took her hand, and, bending over it, raised it to his lips. She fixed her eyes on him a little, and she smiled a little.

“It is I who am dying, now,” she said. “And now I want to ask something of you .to ask what you asked of me.”

He stared, and a deep flush of colour came into his face; he hesitated for an appreciable moment. Then lowering his head with a movement of assent he kissed her hand again.

“Come back to-morrow,” she said; “that is all I ask of you.”

He looked at her again for a while in silence; then he abruptly turned and left her. She sent for the English clergyman and told him that she was a dying woman, and that she wanted the marriage service read beside her couch. The clergyman, too, looked at her, marvelling; but he consented to humour so tenderly romantic a whim and made an appointment for the afternoon of the morrow. Diana was very tranquil. She sat motionless, with her hands clasped and her eyes closed. Agatha wandered about, arranging and re-arranging the flowers. On the morrow she encountered Mr. Longstaff in one of the outer rooms. he had come before his time. She made this objection to his being admitted; but he answered that he knew he was early and had come with intention; he wished to spend the intervening hour with his prospective bride. So he went in and sat down by her couch again, and Agatha, leaving them alone, never knew what passed between them. At the end of the hour the clergyman arrived, and read the marriage service to them, pronouncing the nuptial blessing, while Agatha stood by as witness. Mr. Longstaff went through all this with a solemn, inscrutable face, and Agatha, observing him, said to herself that one must at least do him the justice to admit that he was performing punctiliously what honour demanded. When the clergyman had gone he asked Diana when he might see her again.

“Never!” she said, with her strange smile. And she added, “I shall not live long now.”

He kissed her face, but he was obliged to leave her. He gave Agatha an anxious look as if he wished to say something to her, but she preferred not to listen to him. After this Diana sank rapidly. The next day Reginald Longstaff came back and insisted upon seeing Agatha.

“Why should she die?” he asked. “I want her to live.”

“Have you forgiven her?” said Agatha.

“She saved me!” he cried.

Diana consented to see him once more; there were two doctors in attendance now, and they also had consented. He knelt down beside her bed and asked her to live. But she feebly shook her head.

“It would be wrong of me,” she said.

Later, when he came back once more, Agatha told him she was gone. He stood wondering, with tears in his eyes.

“I don't understand,” he said. “Did she love me or not?”

“She loved you,” said Agatha, “more than she believed you could now love her; and it seemed to her that, when she had had her moment of happiness, to leave you at liberty was the tenderest way she could show it!”

 
 
 

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