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HOME > Classical Novels > Kilmeny of the Orchard > CHAPTER XVII. A BROKEN FETTER
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 Eric went home with a white, haggard face. He had never thought it was possible for a man to suffer as he suffered then. What was he to do? It seemed impossible to go on with life—there was NO life apart from Kilmeny. his soul until his strength went from him and youth and hope turned to and bitterness in his heart.  
He never afterwards could tell how he lived through the following Sunday or how he taught school as usual on Monday. He found out how much a man may suffer and yet go on living and working. His body seemed to him an that moved and mechanically, while his tortured spirit, pent-up within, endured pain that left its impress on him for ever. Out of that furnace of agony Eric Marshall was to go a man who had put boyhood behind him for ever and looked out on life with eyes that saw into it and beyond.
On Tuesday afternoon there was a funeral in the district and, according to custom, the school was closed. Eric went again to the old . He had no expectation of seeing Kilmeny there, for he thought she would avoid the spot lest she might meet him. But he could not keep away from it, although the thought of it was an added , and he vibrated between a wild wish that he might never see it again, and a sick wonder how he could possibly go away and leave it—that strange old orchard where he had met and wooed his sweetheart, watching her develop and blossom under his eyes, like some rare flower, until in the space of three short months she had passed from childhood into still more exquisite womanhood.
As he crossed the pasture field before the spruce wood he came upon Neil Gordon, building a longer fence. Neil did not look up as Eric passed, but went on driving poles. Before this Eric had pitied Neil; now he was conscious of feeling sympathy with him. Had Neil suffered as he was suffering? Eric had entered into a new fellowship whereof the passport was pain.
The orchard was very silent and dreamy in the thick, deep sunshine of the September afternoon, a sunshine which seemed to possess the power of extracting the very essence of all the odours which summer has stored up in wood and field. There were few flowers now; most of the lilies, which had queened it so bravely along the central path a few days before, were . The grass had become and and unkempt. But in the corners the torches of the goldenrod were and a few purple asters nodded here and there. The orchard kept its own strange attractiveness, as some women with youth long passed still preserve an atmosphere of remembered beauty and , indestructible charm.
Eric walked and carelessly about it, and finally sat down on a half fallen fence panel in the shadow of the overhanging spruce . There he gave himself up to a reverie, and bitter sweet, in which he lived over again everything that had passed in the orchard since his first meeting there with Kilmeny.
So deep was his abstraction that he was conscious of nothing around him. He did not hear stealthy footsteps behind him in the dim spruce wood. He did not even see Kilmeny as she came slowly around the curve of the wild cherry lane.
Kilmeny had sought the old orchard for the healing of her heartbreak, if healing were possible for her. She had no fear of encountering Eric there............
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