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The Man and the Moment

CHAPTER XXI
W HEN Lord Fordyce found himself alone, it felt as if life itself must leave him, the
agony of pain was so great, the fiendish irony of circumstances. It almost seemed that
each time he had intended to do a good thing, he had been punished. He had left
Arranstoun for the best motive, and so had not seen Sabine and thus saved himself from
future pain; he had taken Michael to Héronac out of kindly friendship, and this had
robbed him of his happiness. But, awful as the discovery was now, it was not half so
terrible as it would have been if the truth had only come to him later, when Sabine had
become his wife. He must be thankful for that. Things had always been inevitable; it was
plain to be understood that she had loved Michael all along, and nothing he personally
could have done with all his devotion could have changed this fact. He ought to have
known that it was hopeless and that he was only living in a fool's paradise. Never once
had he seen the light in her eyes for himself which sprang there even at the mention of
Michael's name. What was this tremendous power this man possessed to so deeply affect
women, to so greatly charm every one? Was it just "it," as the Princess had said? Anguish
now fell upon Henry; there was no consolation anywhere to be found.
He went over again all the details of the story he had heard, and himself filled up the
links in the chain. How brutal it was of Michael to have induced her to stay—even if she
remained of her own accord—and then the frightful thoughtless recklessness of letting
her go off afterwards just because he was angry! Wild fury blazed up against his old
friend. The poor darling little girl to be left to suffer all alone! Oh! how tender and
passionately devoted he would have been under the same circumstances. Would Michael
ever make her happy or take proper care of her? He paced his room, his mind racked with
pain. Every single turn of events came back to him, and his own incredible blindness.
How had he been so unseeing? How, to begin with, had he not recalled the name of
Sabine as being the one he had read long ago in the paper as that of the girl whom
Michael had gone through the ceremony of marriage with? It had faded completely from
his memory. Everything seemed to have combined to lead him on to predestined disaster
and misery—even in Sabine's and Michael's combining to keep the matter secret from
him not to cause him pain—all had augmented the suffering now. If—but there was no
good in contemplating ifs—what he had to do was to think clearly as to what would be
the wisest course to secure his darling's happiness. That must be his first consideration.
After that, he must face his own cruel fate with what courage he could command.
Her happiness could only come through the divorce proceedings being stopped at once,
and in her being free to go back to the man whom she loved. Then the aspect that
Michael had been willing to do a really fine thing for the sake of friendship struck him—
perhaps he was worthy of Sabine, after all; and they were young and absolutely suited to
one another. No, the wickedness would have been if he, whose youth had passed, had
claimed her and come between. He was only now going through the same agony his
 
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