196 THE BOND OF FRIENDSHIP
I And whom do you love ? ' asked Aphtanides, and his face and neck grew red as fire.
II love Anastasia,' I repliedóand his hand trembled in mine, and he became pale as a corpse. I saw it; I under≠stood the cause ; and I believe my hand trembled. I bent towards him, kissed his forehead, and whispered, ' I have never spoken of it to her, and perhaps she does not love me. Brother, think of this : I have seen her daily; she has grown up beside me, and has become a part of my soul!'
' And she shall be thine ! ' he exclaimed, ' thine ! I may not deceive thee, nor will I do so. I also love her; but to-morrow I depart. In a year we shall see each other once more, and then you will be married, will you not ? I have a little gold of my own : it shall be thine. Thou must, thou shalt take it.'
And we wandered home silently across the mountain. It was late in the evening when we stood at my mother's door.
Anastasia held the lamp upwards as we entered : my mother was not there. She gazed at Aphtanides with a strangely mournful gaze.
1 To-morrow you are going from us,' she said : ' I am very sorry for it.'
1 Sorry !' he repeated, and in his voice there seemed a trouble as great as the grief I myself felt. I could not speak, but he seized her hand, and said, ' Our brother yonder loves you, and he is dear to you, is he not ? His very silence is a proof of his affection.'
Anastasia trembled and burst into tears. Then I saw no one but her, thought of none but her, and threw my arms round her, and said, ' I love thee !' She pressed her lips to mine, and flung her arms round my neck ; but the lamp had fallen to the ground, and all was dark around usódark as in the heart of poor Aphtanides.
Before daybreak he rose, kissed us all, said farewell, and went away. He had given all his money to my mother for us. Anastasia was my betrothed, and a few days afterwards she became my wife.