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A Strange Disappearance

dignity demanded it; to-day I put by all the joy and exaltation you offer, because
your position as a gentleman, and your happiness as a man equally requires it."
"My happiness as a man!" he broke in. "Ah, Luttra if you love me as I do you--"
"I might perhaps yield," she allowed with a faint smile. "But I love you as a girl
brought up amid surroundings from which her whole being recoiled, must love
the one who first brought light into her darkness and opened up to her longing
feet the way to a life of culture, purity and honor. I were the basest of women
could I consent to repay such a boundless favor--"
"But Luttra," he again broke in, "you married me knowing what your father and
brother were capable of committing."
"Yes, yes; I was blinded by passion, a girl's passion, Mr. Blake, born of glamour
and gratitude; not the self-forgetting devotion of a woman who has tasted the
bitterness of life and so learned its lesson of sacrifice. I may not have thought,
certainly I did not realize, what I was doing. Besides, my father and brother were
not convicted criminals at that time, however weak they had proved themselves
under temptation. And then I believed I had left them behind me on the road of
life; that we were sundered, irrevocably cut loose from all possible connection.
But such ties are not to be snapped so easily. They found me, you see, and they
will find me again--"
"Never!" exclaimed her husband. "They are as dead to you as if the grave had
swallowed them. I have taken care of that."
"But the shame! you have not taken care of that. That exists and must, and while
it does I remain where I can meet it alone. I love you; God's sun is not dearer to
my eyes; but I will never cross your threshold as your wife till the opprobrium can
be cut loose from my skirts, and the shadow uplifted from my brow. A queen with
high thoughts in her eyes and brave hopes in her heart were not too good to
enter that door with you. Shall a girl who has lived three weeks in an atmosphere
of such crime and despair, that these rooms have often seemed to me the
gateway to hell, carry there, even in secrecy, the effects of that atmosphere? I
will cherish your goodness in my heart but do not ask me to bury that heart in any
more exalted spot, than some humble country home, where my life may be spent
in good deeds and my love in prayers for the man I hold dear, and because I hold
dear, leave to his own high path among the straight and unshadowed courses of
the world."
And with a gesture that inexorably shut him off while it expressed the most
touching appeal, she glided by him and took her way to the room where her
father and brother awaited her presence.
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