Her delicate face was like a blossom lifted in
the still air; her upward glance chained him to silence. The first breeze
broke the spell: he spoke a word, then speech died on his lips; he stood
twisting his shooting cap, confused, not daring to continue.
The girl leaned back, supporting her weight on one arm,
fingers almost buried in the deep green moss.
"It is three years to-day," he said, in the dull voice
of one who dreams; "three years to-day.
May I not speak?"
In her lowered head and eyes he read acquiescence; in
her silence, consent.
"Three years ago to-day," he repeated; "the anniversary
has given me courage to speak to you.
Surely you will not take offense; we have traveled so
far together!—from the end of the world to the end of it, and back again,
here—to this place of all places in the world! And now to find you here
on this day of all days—here within a step of our first meeting place—three
years ago to-day!
And all the world we have traveled over since never speaking,
yet ever passing on paths parallel—paths which for thousands of miles ran
almost within arms distance—"
She raised her head slowly, looking out from the shadows
of the pines into the sunshine. Her dreamy eyes rested on acres of golden-rod
and hillside brambles quivering in the September heat; on fern-choked gullies
edged with alder; on brown and purple grasses; on pine thickets where slim
silver birches glimmered.
"Will you speak to me?" he asked. "I have never even heard
the sound of your voice."
She turned and looked at him, touching with idle fingers
the soft hair curling on her temples Then she bent her head once more,
the faintest shadow of a smile in her eyes.
"Because," he said humbly, "these long years of silent
recognition count for something! And then the strangeness of it!—the fate
of it—the quiet destiny that ruled our lives—that rules them now—now as
I am speaking, weighting every second with its tiny burden of fate."
She straightened up, lifting her half-buried hand from
the moss; and he saw the imprint there where the palm and fingers had rested.
"Three years that end to-day—end with the new moon," he
said. "Do you remember?"
"Yes," she said.
He quivered at the sound of her voice. "You were there,
just beyond those oaks," he said eagerly; "we can see them from here. The
road turns there—"."Turns by the cemetery," she murmured.
"Yes, yes, by the cemetery! You had been there, I think."
"Do you remember that?" she asked.
"I have never forgotten—never!" he repeated, striving
to hold her eyes to his own; "it was not twilight; there was a glimmer
of day in the west, but the woods were darkening, and the new moon lay
in the sky, and the evening was very clear and still."
Impulsively he dropped on one knee beside her to see her
face; and as he spoke, curbing his emotion and impatience with that subtle
deference which is inbred in men or never acquired, she stole a glance
at him; and his worn visage brightened as though touched with sunlight.
"The second time I saw you was in New York," he said—"only
a glimpse of your face in the crowd—but I knew you."
"I saw you," she mused.
"Did you?" he cried, enchanted. "I dared not believe that
you recognized me."
"Yes, I knew you.... Tell me more."
The thrilling voice set him aflame; faint danger signals
tinted her face and neck.
"In December," he went on unsteadily, "I saw you in Paris—I
saw only you amid the thousand faces in the candlelight of Notre Dame."
"And I saw you.... And then?"
"And then two months of darkness.... And at last a light—moonlight—and
you on the terrace at Amara."
"There was only a flower bed—a few spikes of white hyacinths
between us," she said dreamily.
He strove to speak coolly. "Day and night have built many
a wall between us; was that you who passed me in the starlight, so close
that our shoulders, touched, in that narrow street in Samarkand? And the
dark figure with you—"
"Yes, it was I and my attendant."
"And . . . you, there in the fog—"
"At Archangel? Yes, it was I."
"On the Goryn?"
"It was I.... And I am here at last—with you. It is our
* * *