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The Bond of Friendship

"I love Anastasia," I said-and then his hand trembled in mine, and he turned pale as a corpse. I saw it and understood, and I also believe my hand trembled. I bent toward him, kissed his brow, and whispered, "I have never told her this. Maybe she doesn't love me. Consider this, brother. I've seen her daily; she has grown up by my side, grown into my soul!"

"And she shall be yours!" he said. "Yours! I cannot lie to you, nor will I. I love her too, but tomorrow I go. In a year we shall meet again, and then you will be married, won't you? I have some money of my own; it is yours. You must, and shall, take it!"

Silently we wandered across the mountain. It was late in the evening when we stood at my mother's door. She was not there, but as we entered Anastasia held the lamp up, gazing at Aphtanides with a sad and beautiful look. "Tomorrow you're leaving us," she said. "How it saddens me!"

"Saddens you?" he said, and I thought that in his voice there was a grief as great as my own. I couldn't speak, but he took her hand and said, "Our brother there loves you; is he dear to you? His silence is the best proof of his love."

Anastasia trembled and burst into tears. Then I could see no one but her, think of no one but her; I threw my arms around her and said, "Yes, I love you!" She pressed her lips to mine, and her arms slipped around my neck; the lamp had fallen to the ground, and all about us was dark-dark as in the heart of poor dear Aphtenides.

Before daybreak he got up, kissed us all good-by, and departed. He had given my mother all his money for us. Anastasia was my betrothed, and a few days later she became my wife.

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