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The Return

The last light of sunset lay in the west; and a sullen wrack of cloud was mounting into the
windless sky when Lawford entered the country graveyard again by its dark weather-
worn lych-gate. The old stone church with its square tower stood amid trees, its eastern
window faintly aglow with crimson and purple. He could hear a steady, rather nasal voice
through its open lattices. But the stooping stones and the cypresses were out of sight of its
porch. He would not be seen down there. He paused a moment, however; his hat was
drawn down over his eyes; he was shivering. Far over the harvest fields showed a
growing pallor in the solitary seat beneath the cypresses. He stood hesitating, gazing
steadily and yet half vacantly at the motionless figure, and in a while a face was lifted in
his direction, and undisconcerted eyes calmly surveyed him.
'I am afraid,' called Lawford rather nervously--'I hope I am not intruding?'
'Not at all, not at all,' said the stranger. 'I have no privileges here; at least as yet.'
Lawford again hesitated, then slowly advanced. 'It's astonishingly quiet and beautiful,' he
The stranger turned his head to glance over the fields. 'Yes, it is, very,' he replied. There
was the faintest accent, a little drawl of unfriendliness in the remark.
'You often sit here?' Lawford persisted.
The stranger raised his eyebrows. 'Oh yes, often.' He smiled. 'It is my own modest
fashion of attending divine service. The congregation is rapt.'
'My visits,' said Lawford, 'have been very few--in fact, so far as I know, I have only once
been here before.'
'I envy you the novelty.' There was again the same faint unmistakable antagonism in
voice and attitude; and yet so deep was the relief in talking to a fellow creature who
hadn't the least suspicion of anything unusual in his appearance that Lawford was
extremely disinclined to turn back. He made another effort--for conversation with
strangers had always been a difficulty to him--and advanced towards the seat. 'You
mustn't please let me intrude upon you,' he said, 'but really I am very interested in this
queer old place. Perhaps you would tell me something of its history?' He sat down. His
companion moved slowly to the other side of the broken gravestone.
'To tell you the truth,' he replied, picking his way as it were from word to word, 'it's
"history," as people call it, does not interest me in the least. After all, it's not when a thing