In that moment Mark Felt paused and cast a glance toward the Hudson far below us. Then he resumed his narrative.
“I drew back,” he said, “and clenched my hands to keep myself from strangling Urquhart. Then I broke into hurried pants, that subsided gradually into words of perplexity and amazement as I met his eye, and realized that it contained nothing but a rude sort of sympathy and good fellowship.
“‘How? Why? What do you mean by coming back?’ I cried. ‘You said you would be gone a week. You swore —’
“A gay laugh interrupted me.
“‘And must a man keep every oath he makes, especially when it separates him from a charming betrothed, and a friend who swore that he would make this day his wedding one?’
“‘Are you a monster or are you —’
“‘A self-possessed man who is going to take in charge a crazy one. Come into the house, Mark, a dozen eyes can see us here.’
“He took me in charge; he piloted me into my own dwelling — he whose whole body I had always esteemed weaker than my little finger; my enemy too, or so I considered him; the cause of half my grief, of all my shame, the beginning and end of my hatreds.
“When we were closeted, as we soon were in the room I had expended so much upon to make worthy of my bride, he came and stood before me and uttered these unexpected words:
“‘Felt, I like you. You are the only friend I have, and I am indebted to you. Now, what have you against me?’
“I was astonished. His whole look and bearing were so different from what I had expected, so different from anything I had ever seen in him before. I began to question my doubts, and dropped my eyes as he pursued:
“‘You have been disappointed in your marriage, I hear; but that need not make you as downcast as this. A woman as capricious as Miss Leighton might easily imagine she was too ill to go through the ceremony to-day. But she must have repented of her folly by this time, and in a week will reward you as your patience deserves. But what have I got to do with it? For incredible as it appears, your every look and tone assures me that you blame me for this mishap.’
“Was he daring me? If so, he should find me his equal. I raised my eyes and surveyed him.
“‘Shall I tell you why this is so — why I associate Miss Leighton’s caprice with your return, and regard both with suspicion? Because I have seen you look on her with love; because I have surprised the passion in your face and beheld her —’
“The tone was indescribable. It was as if a hand had taken me by the throat and choked me. I drew off and was silent.
“He seized the word at once.
“‘You have seen nothing. If you think you have, then have you deceived yourself. Marah Leighton has beauty, but it is not a kind that moves me —’
“He paled. Was it horror of the lie he was uttering? I have never known, never shall know.
“‘The woman I am going to marry is Honora Dudleigh.’
“I gazed at him, determined to find the truth if it were in him. He bore my look unflinchingly, though his color did not return, and his hands trembled nervously.
“‘You love her?’ I asked.
“‘I love her,’ he returned.
“‘And your wedding day —’
“‘May it have no interruptions,’ I remarked.
“He laughed — an uneasy laugh, I thought — but jealousy was not yet dead within me.
“‘And yours?’ he inquired.
“‘I have had mine,’ I returned. ‘I shall never have another.’
“He shook his head and looked at me inquisitively. I repeated my assertion.
“‘I shall never approach the altar again with a woman. I am done with such things, and done with love.’
“He finished his laugh.
“‘Wait till you see Marah Leighton smile again,’ he cried; and with the first reappearance of his old manner that I had seen in him since the beginning of this interview, he caught up a wine glass off the table, and filling it with wine, exclaimed jovially: ‘Here’s to our future wives! May they be all that love paints them!’
“I thought his mirth indecent, his manner out of keeping with the occasion, and the whole situation atrocious. But I saw he was about to leave, and said nothing; but I did not drink his toast. When he was gone, I broke his glass by flinging it at my own reflection, in a glass I had bought to mirror her beauty; and before the day was spent, I had destroyed every destructible article in the house whose value or whose prettiness spoke of the attempt I had made to alter my home from a bachelor’s abode to the nest I had thought in keeping with the dove I had failed to place there. As I did it I filled the house with mocking laughter; that I should have thought that this or that would please her, who would have found a palace open to criticism, and the splendors of a throne room scarce grand enough for her taste! I was but suffering the stings of a lifetime compressed into a day, and was miserable because I could see no prospect but further addition to my suffering.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:09