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VI. The White Blot Henry van Dyke

Section III.

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"And yet"--so the man's thought shone through everywhere--"I think she must know that I love her, and why I cannot speak."

One entry was written in a clearer, stronger hand: "An end of hesitation. The longest way is the shortest. I am going to the city to work for the Academy prize, to think of nothing else until I win it, and then come back with it to Claire, to tell her that I have a future, and that it is hers. If I spoke of it now it would be like claiming the reward before I had done the work. I have told her only that I am going to prove myself an artist, AND TO LIVE FOR WHAT I LOVE BEST. She understood, I am sure, for she would not lift her eyes to me, but her hand trembled as she gave me the blue flower from her belt."

The date of his return to Larmone was marked, but the page was blank, as the day had been.

Some pages of dull self-reproach and questioning and bewildered regret followed.

"Is it possible that she has gone away, without a word, without a sign, after what has passed between us? It is not fair. Surely I had some claim."

"But what claim, after all? I asked for nothing. And was it not pride that kept me silent, taking it for granted that if I asked, she would give?"

"It was a mistake; she did not understand, nor care."

"It was my fault; I might at least have told her that I loved her, though she could not have answered me."

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"It is too late now. To-night, while I was finishing the picture, I saw her in the garden. Her spirit, all in white, with a blue flower in her belt. I knew she was dead across the sea. I tried to call to her, but my voice made no sound. She seemed not to see me. She moved like one in a dream, straight on, and vanished. Is there no one who can tell her? Must she never know that I loved her?"

The last thing in the book was a printed scrap of paper that lay between the leaves:


"Would the gods might give Another field for human strife; Man must live one life Ere he learns to live. Ah, friend, in thy deep grave, What now can change; what now can save?"

So there was a message after all, but it could never be carried; a task for a friend, but it was impossible. What better thing could I do with the poor little book than bury it in the garden in the shadow of Larmone? The story of a silent fault, hidden in silence. How many of life's deepest tragedies are only that: no great transgression, no shock of conflict, no sudden catastrophe with its answering thrill of courage and resistance: only a mistake made in the darkness, and under the guidance of what seemed a true and noble motive; a failure to see the right path at the right moment, and a long wandering beyond it; a word left unspoken until the ears that should have heard it are sealed, and the tongue that should have spoken it is dumb.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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