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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 26
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The Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 26 Post by :Prd2BHawn Category :Long Stories Author :Arthur C. Benson Date :May 2012 Read :1559

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The Child Of The Dawn - Chapter 26

CHAPTER XXVI.

But all my speculations were cut short by a strange event which happened about this time. One day, without any warning, the thought of Cynthia darted urgently and irresistibly into my mind. Her image came between me and all my tasks; I saw her in innumerable positions and guises, but always with her eyes bent on me in a pitiful entreaty. After endeavouring to resist the thought for a little as some kind of fantasy, I became suddenly convinced that she was in need of me, and in urgent need. I asked for an interview with our Master, and told him the story; he heard me gravely, and then said that I might go in search of her; but I was not sure that he was wholly pleased, and he bent his eyes upon me with a very inquiring look. I hesitated whether or not to call Amroth to my aid, but decided that I had better not do so at first. The question was how to find her; the great crags lay between me and the land of delight; and when I hurried out of the college, the thought of the descent and its dangers fairly unmanned me. I knew, however, of no other way. But what was my surprise when, on arriving at the top, not far from the point where Amroth had greeted me after the ascent, I saw a little steep path, which wound itself down into the gulleys and chimneys of the black rocks. I took it without hesitation, and though again and again it seemed to come to an end in front of me, I found that it could be traced and followed without serious difficulty. The descent was accomplished with a singular rapidity, and I marvelled to find myself at the crag-base in so brief a time, considering the intolerable tedium of the ascent. I rapidly crossed the intervening valley, and was very soon at the gate of the careless land. To my intense joy, and not at all to my surprise, I found Cynthia at the gate itself, waiting for me with a look of expectancy. She came forwards, and threw herself passionately into my arms, murmuring words of delight and welcome, like a child.

"I knew you would come," she said. "I am frightened--all sorts of dreadful things have happened. I have found out where I am--and I seem to have lost all my friends. Charmides is gone, and Lucius is cruel to me--he tells me that I have lost my spirits and my good looks, and am tiresome company."

I looked at her--she was paler and frailer-looking than when I left her; and she was habited very differently, in simpler and graver dress. But she was to my eyes infinitely more beautiful and dearer, and I told her so. She smiled at that, but half tearfully; and we seated ourselves on a bench hard by, looking over the garden, which was strangely and luxuriantly beautiful.

"You must take me away with you at once," she said. "I cannot live here without you. I thought at first, when you went, that it was rather a relief not to have your grave face at my shoulder,"--here she took my face in her hands--"always reminding me of something I did not want, and ought to have wanted--but oh, how I began to miss you! and then I got so tired of this silly, lazy place, and all the music and jokes and compliments. But I am a worthless creature, and not good for anything. I cannot work, and I hate being idle. Take me anywhere, _make me do something, beat me if you like, only force me to be different from what I am."

"Very well," I said. "I will give you a good beating presently, of course, but just let me consider what will hurt you most, silly child!"

"That is it," she said. "I want to be hurt and bruised, and shaken as my nurse used to shake me, when I was a naughty child. Oh dear, oh dear, how wretched I am!" and poor Cynthia laid her head on my shoulder and burst into tears.

"Come, come," I said, "you must not do that--I want my wits about me; but if you cry, you will simply make a fool of me--and this is no time for love-making."

"Then you do really _care_", said Cynthia in a quieter tone. "That is all I want to know! I want to be with you, and see you every hour and every minute. I can't help saying it, though it is really very undignified for me to be making love to you. I did many silly things on earth, but never anything quite so feeble as that!"

I felt myself fairly bewildered by the situation. My psychology did not seem to help me; and here at least was something to love and rescue. I will say frankly that, in my stupidity and superiority, I did not really think of loving Cynthia in the way in which she needed to be loved. She was to me, with all my grave concerns and problems, as a charming and intelligent child, with whom I could not even speak of half the thoughts which absorbed me. So I just held her in my arms, and comforted her as best I could; but what to do and where to bestow her I could not tell. I saw that her time to leave the place of desire had come, but what she could turn to I could not conceive.

Suddenly I looked up, and saw Lucius approaching, evidently in a very angry mood.

"So this is the end of all our amusement?" he said, as he came near. "You bring Cynthia here in your tiresome, condescending way, you live among us like an almighty prig, smiling gravely at our fun, and then you go off when it is convenient to yourself; and then, when you want a little recreation, you come and sit here in a corner and hug your darling, when you have never given her a thought of late. You _know that is true," he added menacingly.

"Yes," I said, "it is true! I went of my own will, and I have come back of my own will; and you have all been out of my thoughts, because I have had much work to do. But what of that? Cynthia wants me and I have come back to her, and I will do whatever she desires. It is no good threatening me, Lucius--there is nothing you can do or say that will have the smallest effect on me."

"We will see about that," said Lucius. "None of your airs here! We are peaceful enough when we are respectfully and fairly treated, but we have our own laws, and no one shall break them with impunity. We will have no half-hearted fools here. If you come among us with your damned missionary airs, you shall have what I expect you call the crown of martyrdom."

He whistled loud and shrill. Half-a-dozen men sprang from the bushes and flung themselves upon me. I struggled, but was overpowered, and dragged away. The last sight I had was of Lucius standing with a disdainful smile, with Cynthia clinging to his arm; and to my horror and disgust she was smiling too.

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