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Alexander's Bridge

go home again. You must stay put, now that I have you back. You're the realest
thing I have."
Wilson chuckled. "Dear me, am I? Out of so many conquests and the spoils of
conquered cities! You've really missed me? Well, then, I shall hang. Even if you
have at last to put ME in the mummy-room with the others. You'll visit me often,
won't you?"
"Every day in the calendar. Here, your cigarettes are in this drawer, where you
left them." She struck a match and lit one for him. "But you did, after all, enjoy
being at home again?"
"Oh, yes. I found the long railway journeys trying. People live a thousand miles
apart. But I did it thoroughly; I was all over the place. It was in Boston I lingered
longest."
"Ah, you saw Mrs. Alexander?"
"Often. I dined with her, and had tea there a dozen different times, I should think.
Indeed, it was to see her that I lingered on and on. I found that I still loved to go
to the house. It always seemed as if Bartley were there, somehow, and that at
any moment one might hear his heavy tramp on the stairs. Do you know, I kept
feeling that he must be up in his study." The Professor looked reflectively into the
grate. "I should really have liked to go up there. That was where I had my last
long talk with him. But Mrs. Alexander never suggested it."
"Why?"
Wilson was a little startled by her tone, and he turned his head so quickly that his
cuff-link caught the string of his nose-glasses and pulled them awry. "Why? Why,
dear me, I don't know. She probably never thought of it."
Hilda bit her lip. "I don't know what made me say that. I didn't mean to interrupt.
Go on please, and tell me how it was."
"Well, it was like that. Almost as if he were there. In a way, he really is there. She
never lets him go. It's the most beautiful and dignified sorrow I've ever known. It's
so beautiful that it has its compensations, I should think. Its very completeness is
a compensation. It gives her a fixed star to steer by. She doesn't drift. We sat
there evening after evening in the quiet of that magically haunted room, and
watched the sunset burn on the river, and felt him. Felt him with a difference, of
course."
Hilda leaned forward, her elbow on her knee, her chin on her hand. "With a
difference? Because of her, you mean?"
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