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Weird Tales

January, 1925

A CHANGELING SOUL

By Victor Lauriston

FLORA, hesitant, whispered:

"It is—impossible."

"You need say nothing more." returned Folke, grimly; "You do not care—had I any right to hope you would?"

She half raised appealing hands to him. The mute gesture halted even his bitterness.

"I cannot help it." slip pleaded. "I know you for the soul of honor, but—I cannot help it. If—"

"If I were Philip Kingswell?"

The man's brows knit into a stern, ugly frown. Flora's gaze was unseeingly intent on the grass. Vague and indistinct though her face was in the shadows, Folke knew that it flushed in hesitant assent. He fancied even more. Leaning forward, one tense hand gripping the back of her chair, he almost screamed a question:

"Do you—do you love Kingswell?"

No answer came. The cripple's grip tightened till it seemed that the wood must fairly splinter.

"Do you?"

"Yes." Almost inaudible her whisper.

"My God! Flora!"

"I know." She did not look up.

He stared moodily at her, as one who sees his world engulfed in pitiless destruction.

"I'd rather have died a thousand deaths—"

"Oh, I know." Her lips quivered. "I—I know it all. I cannot help it. You—surely you will spare me—"

Her voice broke into a sob. Instantly; dropping to his knees, he humbly kissed her hand. She snatched it from him in sudden horror, as from a thing contaminate.

"Forgive me, he muttered, chokingly.

It was all a blur on bis memory when he reached the street: he saw nothing clearly save her pale face with its downcast eyes; felt nothing, save the choking heartbreak that came when she snatched away her hand. The arc lights far behind threw his shadow on the pavement, ludicrously long: his fancy accentuated the distorted shoulder and filled in the cruel, scarred l...

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