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A Devotee by Mary Cholmondeley

It came out through the orangery door


'I

have a right to do it,' he said. 'I can only help them by going away. And if I am in the wrong, upon my head be it.'

He checked himself in the act of emptying the contents of the flask into the dead fire.

'A right?' he said. 'What right have I to shirk the consequences of my own actions? what right to be a coward? No; I will not go away until I receive permission to do so. I will stay while it is required of me.'

He sighed heavily, and replaced the flask upon the dressing-table.

'Patience,' he said. 'I thought I had seen the last of you. I am tired of you. But, nevertheless, I must put up with you a little longer.'

CHAPTER XIV.

'As the water is dried upon sands, so a life flieth back to the dust.'--SIR ALFRED LYALL.

How Sibyl spent the morning that followed she never knew. She dared not go out of doors. The world of spring, with the new breath of life in it, mocked her. The song of the birds hurt her. She felt as if she should scream outright if she saw the may-blossom against the sky. She wandered aimlessly about the house, and at last crept back to her own room and lay down on her bed, and turned her face to the wall.

The day went on. Her maid brought her

soup, and drew down the blinds, and was pettishly dismissed.

The afternoon came. They were mowing the grass on the terrace on the south front. The faint scent of newly-cut grass came in through the open window, and seemed, through the senses, to reach some acute nerve of the brain. She moaned, and buried her face in the pillows. Presently the mowing ceased, and everything became very silent. A bluebottle fly, pressed for time, rushed in, made the circuit of the room, and rushed out again.

Far away in the other wing, on the ground-floor, she heard the library door open. She knew Mr. Loftus's slow, even step. It crossed the hall; it entered the orangery; it came out through the orangery door, down the stone steps to the terrace below her window. She could hear his step on the gravel outside in the crisp air. Crack gave a short bark in recognition of the spring, and satisfaction that the long morning of arranging papers and the afternoon of letter-writing were at last over.

The steps dwindled and died away into the sunny silence. It seemed to Sibyl's overwrought mind that he was walking slowly out of her life, and that unless she made haste to follow him she would lose him altogether. With a sudden revulsion of feeling, she sprang to her feet, and put on her hat and shoes. Then she braved the spring, and went swiftly out.

* * * * *


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