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The Master of Silence: A Romance, a novel by Irving Bacheller

Chapter 11

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Next day I was discharged from the hospital, and Rayel and I were driven to our apartments. He had a number of surprises prepared for me. A large painting on his easel, awaiting some finishing touches, compelled my attention as soon as I entered the room. It represented a scene in our own lives, which had lasted but a second, but which could never be forgotten by either of us. He had seen me when I stood looking backward in that vivid flash of lightning--there could be no doubt of it now, for here was the scene transferred to canvas. The shaft of white light shaking and darting across the black sky like a gleaming sword; the man on the sidewalk looking backward with a startled glance; the big drops of rain falling sidelong in the wind--these were all reproduced on the canvas. His later pictures were characterized by a cynical tendency, which I observed with regret. It was evident that his sensitive mind had taken impressions from its brief contact with men, which were sadly affecting his thought.

He showed me numerous letters, many of which were from women who desired to visit his studio and see his work. Indeed, my cousin had apparently grown suddenly famous in the American metropolis. He was the victim rather than the victor of fame, however, and regarded the matter with very serious concern. The press of New York had been full of gossip concerning his "eccentricities" since the event which had put my life in danger. One of the society journals had printed a highly colored version of that little episode at the house of the Paddingtons, and had concluded its article by saying that the fair Miss Paddington had fallen madly in love with her father's strange guest.

That night, as we were sitting by the grate fire in our own rooms, Rayel, encouraged by our seclusion, began to emerge from the silence to which he had seemingly gone back for refuge in time of trouble.

"We shall soon be ready to start for England," I said.

"I do not wish to go to England, Kendric," said he. "For a long time I have thought over it. Let me go back to the old house and live by my father's grave, until the good Lord takes me to a better home. I would miss you, dear Kendric, and every day I would look for you to come, but I shall be happier there."

His words touched me deeply, and I was not prepared to answer him with perfect calmness, although I had lately suspected that his despondency would lead to this resolve.

"Why must we separate now, after we have become so dear to each other?" I asked. "Something has happened to change your purpose since I have been ill--tell me what it is."

"To speak frankly, Kendric, I must say that the world has sadly disappointed me. It is full of vanity and deceit and selfishness. Every day brings to me some hideous revelation which the mercy of heaven has hidden from others. I have seen the righteous forsaken of men, and the wicked receiving homage; I have seen the unjust triumphing over the just; I have seen some reveling in abundance while others were begging for bread. Everywhere I have found want and misery staring me in the face.

"Remembering what Christ said, I sold all I had and gave to the poor, and now there is nothing more I can do. My best pictures, my money and all my extra clothing have gone to feed the hungry and cover the naked. And even now, when I have nothing left to give, I find as much misery as before. Often, since I have been alone, I have had nothing to eat and no fire to keep me warm. Then I feared to tell you what I had done, and I bore it in silence, hoping that I might earn more money by painting. But I could not work. When Hester came back I told her all my troubles, and she gave me money, not only for my own use but for the use of others who needed it more than I. She and I have wandered about the city by day and by night, ministering to the sick and the friendless."

He ceased speaking, his head bent forward upon his hands. It was indeed a serious situation into which a too generous heart had betrayed him. Nearly all his fortune had descended to him in cash on deposit, and payable either to my order or to his. He had therefore saved nothing for himself that had been available for the satisfaction of his good impulses. Instead of displeasing me, however, as he feared, his action only increased my love for him, if that were possible.

"Do not let these things trouble you, Rayel," I said. "We shall find no difficulty, I think, in earning money enough for our needs. I cannot see you shut yourself away from the world: you have yet an important work to do among men. You are now morbidly sensitive to the misery that surrounds us, but you will feel it less keenly as it grows more familiar."

"You do not understand me, Kendric," said he, starting from his chair, and pacing restlessly up and down the room. "I cannot deceive you any longer. In begging you to leave me, it is your own happiness I am thinking of. Please go as soon as possible," he pleaded, laying his hand gently upon my shoulder. "Take her with you, and let me stay."

My heart seemed suddenly to have stopped beating.

"My God, Rayel!" I exclaimed. "Are we both in love with the same woman?"

"No, Kendric, no," he said quickly, taking my hand. "I do not mean that. I would not permit myself to love her, knowing that you love her also."

"What, then, do you mean?" I asked.

"That there is danger," he answered huskily, sinking into a chair. "I am a fool not to have thought of it long ago!"

His words seemed to sting me, and for a moment I could not speak.

"You know what is in her heart, Rayel," I said presently. "Tell me, is it false, or is she, as I have thought, a pure and noble woman?"

"She is pure and worthy of your love," he answered. "Her life has been much exposed to temptation, but her character has been greater than any temptation. When she began to go with me among the poor I did not know what love was. I had never felt the power of it, nor did I think of the danger to all of us. When at last it came upon me, and I saw what it meant, I resolved not to see Hester again until God had given me strength to subdue that passion. For days my heart was near breaking. When you asked me to tell you what made me sad, I had not the courage to do it. Then I told you a lie. I did the very thing which I have so much condemned in others. This trouble has taught me to comprehend and to pity the frailty of men. I look forward with fear and dread for my own sake.. I shall be safe in my father's house. I must go back, but, before I go, forgive me. Tell me that you do not despise me."

As he ceased speaking he laid his hand upon my shoulder and peered into my face with a frightened and appealing look.

"Despise you!" I repeated. "No. You are dearer to me now than ever. What you have told me will bring us closer to each other, if we consider it wisely. As yet there is no pledge between Hester and myself, save the assurance given by unuttered thoughts. Her heart is free. I have no right to claim it. If she loves you I shall wish you both much joy."

"That will not be necessary, Kendric. I had rather die than know that I had come between you. I cannot even risk the danger of it. I must leave you to-morrow."

"Under no circumstances will I consent to that. My promise to your father and my duty to you forbid it. To go back now would be cowardly and unworthy of you. With my help and guidance you can do great things. We must face the world with stout hearts. As to this trouble, let us concern ourselves about it as little as possible. I believe that whatever may be best for all will happen if we but wait with patience."

Rayel made no answer, and for some moments we both sat looking at the glowing embers in silence.

"I shall obey your wish," he said presently; "I cannot do otherwise. I am like a child, and must look to you for instruction in all things. Perhaps there will come a time when I can repay you."

"It will be a pleasure for me to help you as I would a brother, and you will owe me no gratitude for it," I said.

We sat discussing our plans for the future until near midnight. When we went to bed at last, Rayel looked happier than I had seen him before since my recovery at the hospital.

When I awoke it was near midday. I went to call Rayel and found that he was gone. _

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