WHEN Maggie was gone to sleep, Stephen, weary too with his unaccustomed amount of rowing and with the intense inward life of the last twelve hours, but too restless to sleep, walked and lounged about the deck, with his cigar, far on into midnight, not seeing the dark water - hardly conscious there were stars - living only in the near and distant future. At last fatigue conquered restlessness, and he rolled himself up in a piece of tarpauling on the deck near Maggie's feet. She had fallen asleep before nine, and had been sleeping for six hours before the faintest hint of a midsummer daybreak was discernible. She awoke from that vivid dreaming which makes the margin of our deeper rest. She was in a boat on the wide water with Stephen, and in the gathering darkness something like a star appeared, that grew and grew till they saw it was the Virgin seated in St Ogg's boat, and it came nearer and nearer till they saw the Virgin was Lucy and the boatman was Philip - no, not Philip, but her brother, who rowed past without looking at her; and she rose to stretch out her arms and call to him, and their own boat turned over with the movement and they began to sink, till with one spasm of dread she seemed to awake and find she was a child again in the parlour at evening twilight, and Tom was not really angry. From the soothed sense of that false waking she passed to the real waking, to the plash of water against the vessel, and the sound of a footstep on the deck, and the awful starlit sky. There was a moment of utter bewilderment before her mind could get disentangled from the confused web of dreams; but soon the whole terrible truth urged itself upon her. Stephen was not by her now: she was alone with her own memory and her own dread. The irrevocable wrong that must blot her life had been committed - she had brought sorrow into the lives of others - into the lives that were knit up with hers by trust and love. The feeling of a few short weeks had hurried her into the sins her nature had most recoiled from - breach of faith and cruel selfishness; she had rent the ties that had given meaning to duty, and had made herself an outlawed soul with no guide but the wayward choice of her own passion. And where would that lead her? - where had it led her now? She had said she would rather die than fall into that temptation. She felt it now - now that the consequences of such a fall had come before the outward act was completed. There was at least this fruit from all her years of striving after the highest and best - that her soul, though betrayed, beguiled, ensnared, could never deliberately consent to a choice of the lower. And a choice of what? O God - not a choice of joy - but of conscious cruelty and hardness; for could she ever cease to see before her Lucy and Philip with their murdered trust and hopes? Her life with Stephen could have no sacredness: she must for ever sink and wander vaguely, driven by uncertain impulse; for she had let go the clue of life - that clue which once in the far off years her young need had clutched so strongly. She had renounced all delights then, before she knew them, before they had come within her reach: Philip had been right when he told her that she knew nothing of renunciation: she had thought it was quiet ecstasy; she saw it face to face now - that sad patient living strength which holds the clue of life, and saw that the thorns were for ever pressing on its brow. That yesterday which could never be revoked - if she could exchange it now for any length of inward silent endurance she would have bowed beneath that cross with a sense of rest.

Daybreak came and the reddening eastern light while her past life was grasping her in this way, with that tightening clutch which comes in the last moments of possible rescue. She could see Stephen now lying on the deck still fast asleep, and with the sight of him there came a wave of anguish that found its way in a long-suppressed sob. The worst bitterness of parting - the thought that urged the sharpest inward cry for help was the pain it must give to him. But surmounting everything was the horror at her own possible failure, the dread lest her conscience should be benumbed again and not rise to energy till it was too late. - Too late! It was too late now, not to have caused misery - too late for everything, perhaps, but to rush away from the last act of baseness - the tasting of joys that were wrung from crushed hearts.

The sun was rising now, and Maggie started up with the sense that a day of resistance was beginning for her. Her eyelashes were still wet with tears, as, with her shawl over her head, she sat looking at the slowly-rounding sun. Something roused Stephen too, and, getting up from his hard bed, he came to sit beside her. The sharp instinct of anxious love saw something to give him alarm in the very first glance. He had a hovering dread of some resistance in Maggie's nature that he would be unable to overcome. He had the uneasy consciousness that he had robbed her of perfect freedom yesterday: there was too

  By PanEris using Melati.

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