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He Had Not Hurt Her.

SHE was young when Love came—very young. Life was still hedged round with dreams. At her age life might be stormy, sad, or lonely, but never flat and tasteless. Then the world burst into blossom suddenly and unreasonably—as it does when one is very young. And, of course, Love was everything.

For a month they met and gloried in the sunrise delicacy of unspoken passion. The month passed away. He did not speak; she dared not; and the world turned into mourning. Yet she cherished her dream for seven years.

They met again. What a passionate pulse played in her blood! Old ghosts came out and stared at her everywhere. She looked to the meeting with unspeakable dread and longing. They met; and with a great ache she recognised that her lover had died with her youth. The man who stood in his place was an alien and a stranger. The faint mannerisms he possessed in old days had become decided habits. Where a dimple had been on the boy's face a wrinkle lay in the man's. She had grown more fastidious and


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discerning. He had grown less so. She had ripened and enriched; he had ceased growing with her last knowledge of him, and was perfectly satisfied with himself. She looked into his changed, shallow eyes with a breaking heart, and said to herself, “What matter? Love is all. For life or death I am his. He has needed me. That is all. I will take his life again, and Paradise will come back to the earth.”

“Surely you will never marry him?” said her friends, guessing her thoughts. “'T would throw away your life!”

“Love is all!” she said.

One sweet, dark evening he walked home with her. His manner had the old tenderness, but none of the old doubt. He drew her hand through his arm. She permitted it. Then, for the first time since their meeting, he spoke of the past.

“I believe you loved me then,” he said.

“And you?” she queried.

“You know!” he answered, softly. For a thrilling second the past lived again. “And you?” he insisted.

Then she flung off her long, maiden silence, and spoke: “I loved you—God knows I did!” There was something of the wail from the dead in it. Nevertheless, it was the supreme moment of her life. She soared into heights unguessed—far, far from the man at her side.

For the first time his complacency was disturbed. “I was not worthy,” he whispered.

She answered with sweet scorn: “A man must be honourable.”

“But you heard something about me?” he insisted.

“Nothing.”

“I thought you might have heard some gossip.”

“No.”

“Well, I would have been married, but there were difficulties in the way. She thinks a great deal of me.”

In a waking dream she heard such sentences as: “When a fellow looks for a home” … “She is awfully fond of me.” Her senses came back as she heard him say: “But I wouldn't like to


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think I had done you any kind of wrong. You see, women are not like men. They hold on to things; but a man forgets. You don't think I have hurt you at all, do you?”

She looked at the familiar scene. The scent of lilac suffocated her. The past stabbed her. She knew what a paltry lie love was

“No,” she said.

C.W.

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