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back suddenly on me like this, startled me.

I handed the letter to Viola in silence. She read it through, and then
pushed it away from her.

"I told you so. There is no peace in this world!"

"But it needn't affect us, dearest," I said. "Suzee is nothing to me
now. I don't want her. There is nothing to distress you."

"But you'll have to do something about it, I suppose," returned Viola
gloomily. She was making the tea, and I saw her hands shook.

"I believe you would like to go. It would be a new experience for you.
You would go if that letter came to you when you were living as a
bachelor, wouldn't you?"

"Possibly I might. But then, of course, when one is free it is
different. Everything is different."

"Free!" murmured Viola, her eyes filling. "I hate to think I am tying
you."

"It is not that," I said gently; "one does not want to do the same
things, nor care about them."

"You wanted Veronica and didn't have her on my account, I am not going
to prevent you doing this. You must go if you want to."

She threw herself into the easy chair with her handkerchief pressed to
her mouth. The tears welled up to her eyes and poured down her white
face uncontrollably.

"Dearest, dear little girl," I said, drawing her into my arms, "you
are upsetting yourself for nothing. I don't want to go, I shan't think
of going. I am perfectly happy; you are everything to me."

She leant her soft head against me in silence, sobbing for some
seconds.

"Come and have breakfast," I said, stroking her hair gently, "and
don't let us think anything more about it. If fifty Suzees were
calling me I should not want to go."

Viola dried her eyes and came to the table in silence. We had other
letters to open, and we discussed these, and no further reference was
made to Suzee then.

Viola looked white and abstracted all day, but it was not till after
dinner, when we were taking our coffee on the verandah, that she gave
me any clew to her thoughts. Then she said suddenly:

"Trevor, I want you to let me go away from you for a year."

I gazed at her in astonishment. She looked very wretched. All the
usual bright colour of her face had fled. Her eyes were large, with
the pupils widely dilated in them. There was a determined, fixed
expression on the pale lips that frightened me.

"Why?" I said, merely drawing my chair close to hers and putting my
arm round her shoulders.

"That is just what I can't tell you," she answered. "Not now. When I
come back I will tell you, but I don't want to now. But I have a good
reason, one which you will understand when you know it. But do just
let me go now as I wish, without questions. I have thought it over so
much, and I am sure I am doing the right thing."

"You have thought it over?" I repeated in surprise. "Since when?
Since this morning, do you mean?"

"No, long before that. Suzee's letter has only decided me to speak
now. I have been meaning to ask you to let me go for some time, only I
put it off because I thought you would dislike it so and would feel
dull without me. But now, if you let me leave you, you can go to Suzee
for a time, and she will amuse and occupy you, and if you want me at
the end of the year I will come back."

The blood surged up to my head as I listened. How could she
deliberately suggest such things?

Did she really care for me or value our love at all?

In any case, for no reason on earth would I let her go.

"No, I shall not, certainly not, consent to anything so foolish," I
said coldly; "I can't think how you can suggest or think such a thing
is possible."

Viola was silent for a moment. Then she said:

"When I come back I would tell you everything, and you would see I was
right."

"I don't know that you ever would come back," I said, with sudden
irrepressible anger.

"If you go away I might want you to stay away. You talk as if our
emotions and passions were mere blocks of wood we could take up and
lay down as we pleased, put away in a box for a time, and then bring
them out again to play with. It's absurd. You talk of going away and
driving me to another woman, and then my coming back to you, as if it
was just a simple matter of our own will. Once we separate and allow
our lives to become entangled with other lives we cannot say what will
happen. We might never come together again."

Viola inclined her head.

"I know," she said in a low tone. "I have thought of all that. But if
I stay there will be a separation all the same, and perhaps something
worse."

"What do you mean by a separation?" I demanded hotly.

"Well, I cannot respond to you any more as I used. I must have rest
for a time," she answered in a low tone.

I looked at her closely, and it struck me again how delicate she
looked. She was thinner, too, than she had been. Her delicate, almost
transparent hand shook as it rested on the chair arm.

The colour rushed burning to my face as I leant over her.

"But, darling girl, if you want more rest you have only to say so.
Perhaps I have been thoughtless and selfish. If so, we must alter
things. But there is no need to separate, to go away from me for
that."

"No, I know," returned Viola in a very tender tone; "I should not for
that alone. You are always most good. It is not that only. There are
other reasons why I would rather be away from you until we can live
together again as we have done."

"And you propose to go away, and suggest my living with another woman
till you come back?" I said incredulously; dismay and apprehension and
anger all struggling together within me for expression.

"Would it be more reasonable of me to expect to leave you and you to
wait absolutely faithful to me till I came back?" she asked, looking
at me with a slow, sad smile, the saddest look I had ever seen, I
thought, on a woman's face. I bent forwards and seized both little
hands in mine and kissed them many times over.

"Of the two I would rather you did that. Yes," I said passionately.
"But there is no question of your going away; whatever happens, we'll
stick to each other. If you want rest you shall have it; if you are
ill I will nurse you and take care of you; but I shan't allow you to
go away from me."

She put her arms round my neck. "Dear Trevor, if you would trust me
just this once, and let me go, it would be so much better."

"No, I cannot consent to such an arrangement," I answered; "it's
absurd. I can't think what you have in your own mind, but I know
nothing would be a greater mistake than what you propose. The chances
are we should never come together again."

There was silence for a moment, broken only by a heavy sigh from
Viola.

"Won't you tell me everything you have in your own mind?" I said
persuasively. "I thought we never made mysteries with one another; it
seems to me you are acting just like a person in an old-fashioned
book. You can tell me anything, say anything you like, nothing will
alter my love for you, except deception - that might."

"And you seem to think separation might," returned Viola sadly.

"I don't think it's a question of separation altering my love for you,
but in separation sometimes things happen which prevent a reunion."

Viola was silent.

"Do tell me," I urged. "Tell me what you have in your mind. Why has
this cloud come up between us?"

"You see," Viola said very gently, "there are some things, if you tell
a man, he is obliged to say and do certain things in return. If you
take the matter in your own hands you can do better for him than he
can do for himself."

"It is something for me then?" I said smiling. "I am to gain by your
leaving me for a year?"

"Yes, I think so," she answered doubtfully. "But principally it is for
myself. I know there is a great risk in going away, but I think a
greater one if I stay."

I was silent, wondering what it could possibly be that she would not
tell me. Although she said she had formed the idea before Suzee's
letter came, I kept returning to that in my thoughts as the main
reason that must be influencing her.

I waited, hoping if I did not press her she would perhaps begin to
confide in me of her own accord. But she sat quite silent, looking
intensely miserable and staring out into space before her. I felt a
vague sense of fear and anxiety growing up in me.

"Dearest, do tell me what is the matter," I said, drawing her close up
to me and kissing her white lips.

"Don't let us make ourselves miserable for nothing, like stupid people
one reads about. Life has everything in it for us. Let us be happy in
it and enjoy it."

Viola burst into a storm of tears against my neck and sobbed in a
heart-breaking way for some minutes.

"Is it that you have ceased to love me, that you feel your own passion
is over?" I asked gently.

"No, certainly not that."

"Is it that you think I want to, or ought to be free from you?"

"No, not that."

"Well, tell me what it is."

"I can't. I think we shall be happy again, after the year, if you let
me come back to you."

I felt my anger grow up again.

"I am not going to let you leave me. I absolutely forbid it. Don't let
us talk about it any more or speak of it again unless you are ready to
tell me your reason."

There was a long silence, broken only by her sobs.

"Viola."

"Yes."

"Did you hear what I said?"

"Yes."

"Well, do not worry any more. You can't go, so it is settled. Nothing
can hurt us while we remain together."

Viola did not say anything, but she ceased to cry and kissed me and
lay still in my arms.

There was some minutes' silence, then I said:

"Let's go up to bed. Sleep will do you good. You look tired and
exhausted to the last degree."

We went upstairs, and that night she seemed to fall asleep in my arms
quickly and easily. I lay awake, as hour after hour passed, wondering
what this strange fancy could be that was torturing her.

At last, between three and four in the morning, I fell asleep and did
not wake again till the clock struck nine on the little table beside
me.

The sun was streaming into the room, and I sat up wide awake. The
place beside me was empty. I looked round the room. I was quite alone.
Remembering our conversation of last night and Viola's strange manner,
a vague apprehension came over me, and my heart beat nervously. It
was very unusual for Viola to be up first. She generally lay in bed
till the last moment, and always dissuaded me from getting up till I
insisted on doing so. I sprang up now and went over to the
toilet-table. On the back of her brushes lay a note addressed to me in
her handwriting. Before I took it up I felt instinctively she had left
me. For a moment I could not open it. My heart beat so violently that
it seemed impossible to breathe, a thick mist came over my eyes. I
took up the note and paced up and down the room for a few minutes
before I could open it.

A suffocating feeling of anger against her raged through me. The sight
of the bed where she had so lately lain beside me filled me with a
resentful agony. She had gone from me while I slept. To me, in those
first blind moments of rage, it seemed like the most cruel treachery.

After a minute I grew calm enough to tear open the note and read it.

* * * * *

"My very dearest one,

"Forgive me. This is the first time I have disobeyed you in
anything in all the time we have been together And now [Greek:
bainô. to gar chrên mou te kai theôn kratei....]

"I must go from you, and you yourself will see in the future the
necessity that is ruling me now. Do not try to find me or follow
me, as I cannot return to you yet. Do believe in me and trust me
and let me return to you at the end of this miserable year which
stretches before me now a desert of ashes and which seems as if it
would never pass over, as if it would stretch into Eternity. But
my reason tells me that it will pass, and then I shall come back
to you and all my joy in life; for there is no joy anywhere in
this world for me except with you - if you will let me come back.

"No one will know where I am. I shall see no one we know. Say what
you wish about me to the world.

"Don't think I do not know how you will suffer at first; but you
would have suffered more if I had stayed. While I am away from
you, think of your life as entirely your own; do not hesitate to
go to Suzee, if you wish. I feel somehow that Fate has designed
you for me, not for her, and that she will not hold you for long,
but that, whatever happens, you will always remember

"VIOLA."

* * * * *

I crushed this letter in my hand in a fury of rage when I had read it,
and threw it from me. Anger against her, red anger in which I could
have killed her, if I could in those moments have followed and found
her, swept over me.

I looked round the room mechanically. She had dressed in the clothes
she had been wearing yesterday apparently, and taken one small
handbag, for I missed that from where it had stood on a chest of
drawers.

Her other luggage was there undisturbed. I saw her evening and other
dresses hanging in the half-open wardrobe opposite me.

The only thing that had gone from the toilet-table was the little
frame with my photo in it.

A sickening sense of loss, of despair came over me, mingling with the
savage anger and hatred surging within me.

After a time I rose from my chair and began to dress.

I had made up my mind as to my own actions. To stay here without
Viola, where the whole place spoke to me of her, was impossible. As
soon as I could get everything packed I would go up to London and stay
at my club. She would not come back.

No, it was no use my waiting with that hope.

Her mad scheme, whatever it was, I felt was planted deeply, her
resolve fixed. It was true that three months before, after just such a
cruel letter, she had come suddenly back to me, having failed in her
resolution. I remembered that, and paused suddenly at the
recollection. But then that was different. Then, infidelity to me had
been in the question. Now I knew that wherever she was going it was
not to another lover.

Whatever her foolish idea was, some benefit to me was mixed up with it
in her mind.

And then, suddenly, in a tender rush of passionate reminiscence that
would not be denied, the knowledge came home to me that, whatever her
faults might be, however foolish and maddening her actions, no one had
ever loved me as she had done, as unselfishly, with the same
abandonment of self.

The hot tears came scalding up under my lids. I picked up the little
crumpled sheet of paper I had so savagely crushed, smoothed it out,
folded it, and put it in my breast pocket.

Then I turned to my packing. We had only taken rooms here. By paying I
was free to leave at any moment.

Her things? What should I do with them? Keep them with me or send them
away to her bankers?

I thought the latter, and turned to gather up her clothes and put them
in her portmanteau. My brain seemed bursting with a wild agony of
resentment as I took up first one thing and then another: the touch of
them seemed to burn me. Then, when I was half-way through a trunk; I
stopped short. Was I wise to accept the situation at all? Perhaps I
could follow her and find out, after all, what this mystery meant.

We were in a small country place, but there was a fairly good service
of trains to town; one I knew left in the morning at seven, she might
have taken that. I could go to the station and find out.

Filled suddenly with that heart-rending longing for the sight and
touch of the loved one again that is so unendurable in the first hours
of separation, I thought I would do that, and I left the half-filled
trunk and went downstairs to the hall.

The two maids were standing there waiting, and they stared at me as I
passed and put on my hat.

"Please, sir, are you ready for breakfast? It's gone half-past ten."

"No," I said shortly. "I am going out first."

"Will Mrs. Lonsdale be coming down, sir?"

I stopped short.

"No, Mrs. Lonsdale has gone out already," I answered, and went on
through the door.

I didn't care what they thought. When one is in great pain, physical
or mental, nothing seems to matter except that pain.

I walked fast to the station, about a mile distant, and made enquiries
as discreetly as I could.

"No," was the unanimous answer. Mrs. Lonsdale had certainly not left
there by any train that morning, nor been there at all, nor hired a
fly from there. They were all quite sure of that.

She was well known at the station, so it seemed improbable she could
have been there unobserved.

There was another station up the line six miles distant. She might
easily have walked to that to avoid notice.

I took a fly, and drove to the other station, but here Viola was not
known personally, and though I described her, and was assured she had
not been seen there, it was indefinite and uncertain information that
settled nothing.

She might have gone from there to town by an early train unnoticed, or
she might have gone down the line to another country place to elude
me. I could tell nothing.

Feeling sick and dispirited, I drove back to the station and then
walked on to the house.

When I went upstairs the room was in disorder just as I had left it.
As I entered the bed caught my eye, the pillow her head had so lately
crushed, and there beside it the delicate garment she had been wearing
a few hours ago.

An immense, a devastating sense of loss came over me. A feeling of
suffering so intense and so vast, it seemed to crush me beneath it
physically as well as mentally.

I sank down in the armchair, laid my head back and closed my eyes. I
ceased to think any more, I was unconscious of anything except that
sense of intense suffering.

By that evening I had everything packed, all the bills paid; and I
took the seven-o'clock train to town. I felt to stay there the night,
to attempt to sleep in that room so full of memories of her was an
impossibility. Something that would drive me mad if I attempted it.

The people of the house stared at me when I paid them, and the maids
looked frightened when I addressed them, but I hardly saw them, doing
what was necessary in a mechanical way, with all my senses turned
inward, as it were, and blunted by that one overpowering idea of loss.

The two hours in a fast train did me good. I had a sort of
subconscious feeling I was going to her by going to town which buoyed
me up instinctively; but the reaction was terrible when I actually
arrived and drove to some rooms I knew in Jermyn Street and realised
that I was indeed alone.

I sat up all that night, feeling my brain alight and blazing with a
fire of agony and pain. Sleep was out of the question. A man does not
love a woman as I loved Viola and sleep the night after she has left
him.

The next morning I went to her bankers, only to get just the answers I
had expected.

Yes, Mrs. Lonsdale had communicated with them. She was abroad, and
they had her address but were not at liberty to disclose it. They
would forward all letters to her immediately.

I went straight back to my rooms and wrote to her. I poured out my
whole heart in the letter, imploring her to come to me; yet every line
I wrote I knew was useless, useless.

Still I could not rest nor exist till I had written it, and when it
was posted I felt a certain solace.

I walked on to my club afterwards, and amongst other letters found
another from Suzee.

I could not imagine how she had obtained my club address at all,
unless it was in that night when she came to my cabin. She would be
quite capable of searching for anything she wanted and taking away
some of my letters to obtain and keep my address.

I did not open it at once. I felt a sort of anger with Suzee as being
partly responsible for all I was going through. Whatever Viola might
say, Suzee's letter had seemed to bring her mad resolve to a climax.

I took some lunch at the club, and a man I knew came up and spoke to
me.

"Up in town again, I see," he began, to which I assented.

"How's Mrs. Lonsdale?"

"Quite well, thank you," I replied.

"Is she up with you?"

"No."

"Coming up soon, I suppose?"

"I don't know."

My friend looked at me once or twice, and then after a few vacuous
remarks went away.

I knew that in a few hours it would be all over the club that I and
Viola no longer hit it off together, that in fact we were living
apart, and by the evening a decree _nisi_ would have been pronounced
for us. But I didn't care what they said. Nothing mattered. No one
could hurt me more than I was hurt already. The worst had happened.

As I sat there I saw Lawton, who also belonged to the club, cross the
end of the dining-room. He, too, would come up and speak to me if he
caught sight of me.

I felt I did not wish to speak to the man who had always loved Viola,
who had always envied me her possession, and to whom once I had nearly
lost her.

I got up and left the club, went back to my rooms, and there got out
my letters to read.

After all, I thought, as I took up Suzee's letter, why not go out to
'Frisco? It would make a change, something to do, something to drive
away this perpetual desire of another's presence.

A second night like last stared me in the face. What was the use of
continuing to feel in this wretched, angry, burning, hungry way?

I broke the seal and read Suzee's second appeal to me, more
passionate, more urgent than the last. She begged me to go to her
without delay, or it would be too late; a fervour of longing breathed
in every line.

An ironic smile came over my face as I read. This letter to me seemed
like an echo of the one I had sent to Viola that morning. Well, I
would wait for her answer, and then, perhaps, if she would not return
to me, I would go to 'Frisco.

In any case, I would send a few lines to Suzee with the money for her
purchase. It would be best to cable it to her, and I went out again to
arrange this.

Five wretched, listless days went by, followed by nearly sleepless
nights, and then came Viola's answer, apparently by the postmark from
some place in France.

My whole body shook as I opened it, and for many seconds I could see
nothing on the paper but a mass of dancing black lines. Yet the
immense comfort of being again in touch with her after these dreadful
days of isolation seemed to flow over and through me like some healing
balm.

At last I read these lines:

"I am terribly, unutterably grieved, my own dearest one, to hear
how much you have suffered, but my return to you now would not
undo that, and only give you the pain in addition that I went away
to avoid for you.

"Go, dearest, go out to 'Frisco, and let the thought of me lie in
your subconsciousness for a year, a little chrysalis of future
happiness. Do not think of me, do not let your mind dwell on me.
Fill up your life with joy and work. I have a conviction that we
cannot ever really separate in this life. Therefore I do not fear
(as you seemed to do) that anything will be strong enough to keep
us apart if we both will to be together. Only, for a time, let me
sleep in your Soul in a chamber where none other can enter, and
the year will soon pass for you, though slowly, as a winter night,
for me. Your

"VIOLA."

* * * * *

A great numbness seized me as I came to the end.

A year without her. It seemed like Eternity itself.

I sat for many hours motionless with her letter in my hand.

Then I went out and to a ticket office in Piccadilly, and got a
through ticket to 'Frisco.




CHAPTER IX

IN 'FRISCO


During the voyage to New York and the subsequent journey across
America to San Francisco I was very wretched.

The mystery of Viola's disappearance and her flight from me stood
before my mind perpetually, worrying and harassing it. I felt no
joyful anticipation of reaching 'Frisco and meeting Suzee, though I
recognised in a dull way that some sort of distraction and
companionship would be the best thing to stop this incessant pondering
on the same subject. I slept little at night, and in the short
intervals of rest such vivid dreams of Viola would come to me, that
awakening in the morning brought a fresh anguish of despair and
disappointment with it each day.

This sort of thing could not go on, I must let her "lie asleep in my
subconsciousness for a year," as she put it in her letter - for to
forget her was impossible - or my reason would go down under the


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