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"What have I done? What have I done?" Hector groaned to himself in
anguish as he paced up and down his room at the Ritz an hour after the
party had broken up, and he had driven Mrs. McBride back in his
automobile, leaving hers to father and daughter.
All through supper Theodora had sat limp and white as death, and every
time she had looked at him her eyes had reminded him of a fawn he had
wounded once at Bracondale, in the park, with his bow and arrow, when he
was a little boy. He remembered how fearfully proud he had been as he
saw it fall, and then how it had lain in his arms and bled and bled, and
its tender eyes had gazed at him in no reproach, only sorrow and pain,
and a dumb asking why he had hurt it.
All the light of the stars seemed quenched, no eyes in the world had
ever looked so unutterably pathetic as Theodora's eyes, and gradually as
they sat and talked platitudes and chaffed with the elderly fianc�es, it
had come to him how cruel he had been--he who had deliberately used
every art to make her love him--and now, having gained his end, what
could he do for her? What for himself? Nothing but sorrow faced them
both. He had taken brutal advantage of her gentleness and
innocence--when chivalry alone should have made him refrain.
He saw himself as he was--the hunter and she the hunted--and the
knowledge that he would pay with all the anguish and regret of a
passionate, hopeless love--perhaps for the rest of his life--did not
balance things to his awakened soul. If his years should be one long,
gnawing ache for her, what of hers? And she was so young. His life, at
all events, was a free one; but hers tied to Josiah Brown! And this
thought drove him to madness. She belonged to Josiah Brown--not to him
whom she loved--but to Josiah Brown, plebeian and middle-aged and
exacting. He knew now that he ought to have gone away at once, the next
day after they had met. His whole course of conduct had been weak and
absolutely self-indulgent and wicked.
Who was he to dare to have raised his eyes to this angel, and try to
scorch even the hem of her clothing! And now he had only brought
suffering upon her and dimmed the light in God's two stars, which were
And then wild passion shook him, and he could only live again the divine
moments when she had nestled unresisting in his arms. Would it have made
things better or worse if he had not yielded to the temptation of that
hour of night and solitude?
After all, the sin was in making her love him, not in just holding her
and kissing her lips. And at least, at least, they would have that
exquisite memory of moments of unutterable bliss to keep for the rest of
His windows were wide open, and he leaned upon the balcony and gazed out
at the moon. What good had all his life been? What benefit had he
brought to any one? Then he seemed to see a clear vision of Theodora's
short existence. Every picture she had unconsciously shown him was of
some gentle thought of unselfishness for others.
And now he had laid a burden upon her shoulders, when he would not hurt
a hair of her head--that dear, exquisite head which had lain upon his
breast only two hours ago, and could never lie there again. He knew this
was the end.
Then anguish and remorse seized him, and he buried his face on his
And Theodora staggered up to her room like one half dead. Mercifully
Josiah Brown, had gone to bed, leaving a message with Henriette,
Theodora's maid, that on no account was she to make any noise or disturb
Henriette adored her mistress--as who did not who served her?--and she
felt distressed to see madame so pale. Doubtless madame had had a most
tiring day. Madame had, and was thankful when at last she was left alone
with her thoughts. Then she, too, opened wide the windows and gazed at
She had no cause for remorse for evil conduct like Hector. She had made
no plans for the entrapping of any soul, and yet she felt forlorn and
wicked. Oh yes, she was awake now and knew where she had been drifting.
And so love had come at last, and indeed, indeed it meant life. This
blast had struck her, and she had been blind in not recognizing it at
But oh, how sweet it was!--love--and it seemed as if it could make
everything good and fair. If he and she who loved each other could have
belonged to each other, surely they might have shed joy and gladness
and kindness on all around.
Then she lay on her bed and did not try to reason any more; she only
knew she loved Hector Bracondale with all her heart and being, and that
she was married to Josiah Brown.
And what would the days be when she never saw him? And he, too, he would
be sad--and then there was poor Josiah--who was so generous to her. He
could not help being vulgar and unsympathetic, and her duty was to make
him happy. Well, she could do that, she would try her very best to do
But thrills ran through her with the recollection of the moments in the
drive to Paris--oh, why had no one told her or warned her all her life
about this good thing love? At last, worn out with all emotions, sleep
gently closed her eyes.
And fate up above laughed no more. Her sport was over for a time, she
had made a sorry ending to their happy day.
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