The spring had advanced to the end of April. It was the eve of Allan's wedding-day. Midwinter and he had sat talking together at the great house till far into the night—till so far that it had struck twelve long since, and the wedding day was already some hours old.
For the most part the conversation had turned on the bridegroom's plans and projects. It was not till the two friends rose to go to rest that Allan insisted on making Midwinter speak of himself.
"We have had enough, and more than enough, of my future," he began, in his bluntly straightforward way. "Let's say something now, Midwinter, about yours. You have promised me, I know, that, if you take to literature, it shan't part us, and that, if you go on a sea-voyage, you will remember, when you come back, that my house is your home. But this is the last chance we have of being together in our old way; and I own I should like to know—" His voice faltered, and his eyes moistened a little. He left the sentence unfinished.
Midwinter took his hand and helped him, as he had often helped him to the words that he wanted in the by-gone time.
"You would like to know, Allan," he said, "that I shall not bring an aching heart with me to your wedding day? If you will let me go back for a moment to the past, I think I can satisfy you."
They took their chairs again. Allan saw that Midwinter was moved. "Why distress yourself?" he asked, kindly—"why go back to the past?"
"For two reasons, Allan. I ought to have thanked you long since for the silence you have observed, for my sake, on a matter that must have seemed very strange to you. You know what the name is which appears on the register of my marriage, and yet you have forborne to speak of it, from the fear of distressing me. Before you enter on your new life, let us come to a first and last understanding about this. I ask you—as one more kindness to me—to accept my assurance (strange as the thing may seem to you) that I am blameless in this matter; and I entreat you to believe that the reasons I have for leaving it unexplained are reasons which, if Mr. Brock was living, Mr. Brock himself would approve." In those words he kept the secret of the two names; and left the memory of Allan's mother, what he had found it, a sacred memory in the heart of her son.
"One word more," he went on—"a word which will take us, this time, from past to future. It has been said, and truly said, that out of Evil may come Good. Out of the horror and the misery of that night you know of has come the silencing of a doubt which once made my life miserable with groundless anxiety about you and about myself. No clouds raised by my superstition will ever come between us again. I can't honestly tell you that I am more willing now than I was when we were in the Isle of Man to take what is called the rational view of your Dream. Though I know what extraordinary coincidences are perpetually happening in the experience of all of us, still I cannot accept coincidences as explaining the fulfillment of the Visions which our own eyes have seen. All I can sincerely say for myself is, what I think it will satisfy you to know, that I have learned to view the purpose of the Dream with a new mind. I once believed that it was sent to rouse your distrust of the friendless man whom you had taken as a brother to your heart. I now know that it came to you as a timely warning to take him closer still. Does this help to satisfy you that I, too, am standing hopefully on the brink of a new life, and that while we live, brother, your love and mine will never be divided again?"
They shook hands in silence. Allan was the first to recover himself. He answered in the few words of kindly assurance which were the best words that he could address to his friend.
"I have heard all I ever want to hear about the past," he said; "and I know what I most wanted to know about the future. Everybody says, Midwinter, you have a career before you, and I believe that everybody is right. Who knows what great things may happen before you and I are many years older?"
"Who need know?" said Midwinter, calmly. "Happen what may, God is all-merciful, God is all-wise. In those words your dear old friend once wrote to me. In that faith I can look back without murmuring at the years that are past, and can look on without doubting to the years that are to come."
He rose, and walked to the window. While they had been speaking together the darkness had passed. The first light of the new day met him as he looked out, and rested tenderly on his face.