Alexander's Bridge HTML version

dozen years ago. Alexander walked by the place very quietly, as if he were afraid
of waking some one.
He crossed Bedford Square and found the number he was looking for. The
house, a comfortable, well-kept place enough, was dark except for the four front
windows on the second floor, where a low, even light was burning behind the
white muslin sash curtains. Outside there were window boxes, painted white and
full of flowers. Bartley was making a third round of the Square when he heard the
far-flung hoof-beats of a hansom-cab horse, driven rapidly. He looked at his
watch, and was astonished to find that it was a few minutes after twelve. He
turned and walked back along the iron railing as the cab came up to Hilda's
number and stopped. The hansom must have been one that she employed
regularly, for she did not stop to pay the driver. She stepped out quickly and
lightly. He heard her cheerful "Good-night, cabby," as she ran up the steps and
opened the door with a latchkey. In a few moments the lights flared up brightly
behind the white curtains, and as he walked away he heard a window raised. But
he had gone too far to look up without turning round. He went back to his hotel,
feeling that he had had a good evening, and he slept well.
For the next few days Alexander was very busy. He took a desk in the office of a
Scotch engineering firm on Henrietta Street, and was at work almost constantly.
He avoided the clubs and usually dined alone at his hotel. One afternoon, after
he had tea, he started for a walk down the Embankment toward Westminster,
intending to end his stroll at Bedford Square and to ask whether Miss Burgoyne
would let him take her to the theatre. But he did not go so far. When he reached
the Abbey, he turned back and crossed Westminster Bridge and sat down to
watch the trails of smoke behind the Houses of Parliament catch fire with the
sunset. The slender towers were washed by a rain of golden light and licked by
little flickering flames; Somerset House and the bleached gray pinnacles about
Whitehall were floated in a luminous haze. The yellow light poured through the
trees and the leaves seemed to burn with soft fires. There was a smell of acacias
in the air everywhere, and the laburnums were dripping gold over the walls of the
gardens. It was a sweet, lonely kind of summer evening. Remembering Hilda as
she used to be, was doubtless more satisfactory than seeing her as she must be
now--and, after all, Alexander asked himself, what was it but his own young
years that he was remembering?
He crossed back to Westminster, went up to the Temple, and sat down to smoke
in the Middle Temple gardens, listening to the thin voice of the fountain and
smelling the spice of the sycamores that came out heavily in the damp evening
air. He thought, as he sat there, about a great many things: about his own youth
and Hilda's; above all, he thought of how glorious it had been, and how quickly it
had passed; and, when it had passed, how little worth while anything was. None
of the things he had gained in the least compensated. In the last six years his
reputation had become, as the saying is, popular. Four years ago he had been
called to Japan to deliver, at the Emperor's request, a course of lectures at the