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Chapter XIV 


END OF BOOK THREE

So ended my pilgrimage. I had wandered far, had loved many, but I came back to London without the Golden Girl. I had begun my pilgrimage with a vision, and it was with a vision that I ended it. From all my goings to and fro upon the earth, I had brought back only the image of a woman's face,--the face of that strange woman of the moorland, still haunting my dreams of the night and the day.

It was autumn in my old garden, damp and forsaken, and the mulberry-tree was hung with little yellow shields. My books looked weary of awaiting me, and they and the whole lonely house begged me to take them where sometimes they might be handled by human fingers, mellowed by lamplight, cheered by friendly laughter.

The very chairs begged mutely to be sat upon, the chill white beds to be slept in. Yes, the very furniture seemed even lonelier than myself.

So I took heed of their dumb appeal.

"I know," I answered them tenderly,--"I too, with you, have looked on better days, I too have been where bells have knoll'd to church, I too have sat at many a good man's feast,--yes! I miss human society, even as you, my books, my bedsteads, and my side- boards,--so let it be. It is plain our little Margaret is not coming back, our little Margaret, dear haunted rooms, will never come back; no longer shall her little silken figure flit up and down your quiet staircases, her hands filled with flowers, and her heart humming with little songs. Yes, let us go, it is very lonely; we shall die if we stay here all so lonely together; it is time, let us go."

So thereon I wrote to a furniture-remover, and went out to walk round the mossy old garden for the last time, and say good-bye to the great mulberry, under whose Dodonaesque shade we had sat half frightened on starry nights, to the apple-trees whose blossom had seemed like fairy-land to Margaret and me, town-bred folk, to the apricots and the peaches and the nectarines that it had seemed almost wicked to own,--as though we had gone abroad in silk and velvet,--to the little grassy orchard, and to the little green corner of it, where Margaret had fallen asleep that summer afternoon, in the great wicker-chair, and I had brought a dear friend on tiptoe to gaze on her asleep, with her olive cheeks delicately flushed, her great eyelids closed like the cheeks of roses, and her gold hair tumbled about her neck . . .

Well, well, good-bye,--tears are foolish things. They will not bring Margaret back. Good-bye, old garden, good-bye, I shall never see you again,--good-bye.

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