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Death would lose much of its sting for him if there were somewhere in the world just one woman, however lowly, whose heart would be broken by his dying. What a pity Nellie O'Mora was not really extant! Suddenly he recalled certain words lightly spoken yesterday by Zuleika. She had told him he was loved by the girl who waited on him the daughter of his landlady. Was this so?

Had he delivered himself into the gods' hands? The eyes of Nellie O'Mora were on him compassionately; and all the eyes of his forerunners were on him in austere scorn: "See," they seemed to be saying, "the chastisement of last night's blasphemy." Violently, insistently, he rang the bell. In rushed Barrett at last.

The Duke felt that the blame was on himself, who had elected Marraby to the club. Mr. Oover, too, looked grave. All the antiquarian in him deplored the sudden rupture of a fine old Oxford tradition. All the chivalrous American in him resented the slight on that fair victim of the feudal system, Miss O'Mora.

From the tea-spoon into the wine-glass the Duke poured the draught of salvation, and then, raising it aloft, he looked around at his fore-runners and in a firm voice cried "Gentlemen, I give you Nellie O'Mora, the fairest witch that ever was or will be." He drained his glass, heaved the deep sigh of a double satisfaction, dismissed with a glance the wondering Barrett, and sat down.

"I can only say that my conscience is stronger than my sense of what is due to the customs of the club. Nellie O'Mora," he said, passing his hand over his brow, "may have been in her day the fairest witch that ever was so fair that our founder had good reason to suppose her the fairest witch that ever would be. But his prediction was a false one. So at least it seems to me.

All around, the members of the little hierarchy, a hierarchy ever changing in all but youth and a certain sternness of aspect that comes at the moment of being immortalised, were gazing forth now with a sternness beyond their wont. Not one of them but had in his day handed on loyally the praise of Nellie O'Mora, in the form their Founder had ordained.

But, as he gazed into the eyes of Nellie O'Mora now, Dorset needed not for penitence the reproaches of his past self or of his forerunners. "Sweet girl," he murmured, "forgive me. I was mad. I was under the sway of a deplorable infatuation. It is past. See," he murmured with a delicacy of feeling that justified the untruth, "I am come here for the express purpose of undoing my impiety."

Silent, frowning, flushed, he stood for a few moments, and then, with a deliberate gesture, tilted his glass and let fall the wine to the carpet. "No," he said, looking round the table, "I cannot give you Nellie O'Mora." "Why not?" gasped Sir John Marraby. "You have a right to ask that," said the Duke, still standing.

Over the closed gates of Iffley lock, the water gushed down, eager for the sacrament of the sea. Among the supine in the field hard by, there was one whose breast bore a faint-gleaming star. And bending over him, looking down at him with much love and pity in her eyes, was the shade of Nellie O'Mora, that "fairest witch," to whose memory he had to-day atoned.

It was right that she should always be toasted after dinner by the Junta, as in the days when first he loved her "Here's to Nellie O'Mora, the fairest witch that ever was or will be!" He would have resented the omission of that toast. But he was sick of the pitying, melting looks that were always cast towards her miniature.