Read CHAPTER XXXV of Cleek: the Man of the Forty Faces, free online book, by Thomas W. Hanshew, on ReadCentral.com.

She was sitting in the very same place she had occupied when first he saw her this morning, with the cypress tree and the roof making shadows above and about her; and now, as then, she rose when she heard the latch click and came toward him with hands outstretched and eyes aglow and little gusts of colour sweeping in rose waves over throat and cheeks.

“Oh, to think that you have solved it! To think that it is the end! And to think that it was he that dear, kind ‘uncle’ of whom they all were so fond!” she said. “I could scarcely believe it when Captain Morford brought the news. It made me quite faint for the moment it was so unexpected, so horrible!”

“And after all, there was nothing to fear from that farm labourer who frightened you so this morning, you see,” he smiled, holding her two hands in his and looking down at her from his greater height. “Yet I find your crouching back in the shadow as if you were still frightened to be seen. Are you?”

“A little,” she admitted. “You see, the road is a public one. People are always passing, and How good it was of you to come all this long distance out of your way. Indeed, I am very, very grateful, Mr. Cleek.”

“Thank you,” he said gravely. “But you need not be. Indeed, the gratitude should be all on my side. I said I would come if ever you wanted me, and you gave me an opportunity to keep my word. As for it being out of my way to come here, it is but a little distance to the Three Desires and a long one to Lady Chepstow’s place, so it is you, not I, that have ‘gone out of the way!’ It was good of you to give me this grace I should have been sorry to go back to town without saying good-bye.”

“But need you go so soon?” she asked. “Lady Chepstow will feel slighted, I know, if she hears that you have been in the neighbourhood and have not called. She is a friend, you know, a warm, true friend always grateful for what you did, always glad to see you. Why not stop on a day or two and call and see her?”

A robin flicked down out of the cypress tree and perched on the gate top, looked up at Cleek with bright, sharp eyes, flung out a wee little trill, and was off again.

“I’m afraid it is out of the question I’m afraid I’m not so deeply interested in Lady Chepstow as, perhaps, I ought to be,” said Cleek, noticing in a dim subconscious way that the robin had flown on to the church door and perched there, and was in full song now. “Besides, she does not know of me what you do. Perhaps, if she did.... Oh, well, it doesn’t matter. Thank you for coming to say good-bye, Miss Lorne. It was kind of you. Now I must emulate Poor Jo, and ‘move on’ again.”

“And without any reward!” said Ailsa with a smile and a sigh. “Without expecting any; without asking any; without wanting any!”

He stood a moment, twisting his heel round and round in the gravel of the pathway, and breathing hard, his eyes on the ground, and his lips indrawn. Then, of a sudden “Perhaps I did want one. Perhaps I’ve always wanted one. And hoped to get it some day perhaps from you!” he said. And looked up at her as a man looks but once at one woman ever.

She had come a step nearer; she was standing there with the shadows behind her and the light on her face, warm colour in her cheeks, and a smile on her lips and in her eyes. She spoke no word, made no sound; merely stood there and smiled and, somehow, he seemed to know what the smile of her meant and what the bird’s note said.

“Miss Lorne Ailsa,” he said, very, very gently, “if some day ... when all the wrongs I did in those other days are righted, and all that a man can do on this earth to atone for such a past as mine has been done ... if then, in that time, I come to you and ask for that reward, do you think, oh, do you think that you can find it in your heart to give it?”

“When that day dawns, come and see,” she said, “if you wish to wait so long!”