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said. She wondered why he talked to her, and she wished he would leave off; but outwardly she was patient, and at one time he thought he was doing her good. Knowing his profession, he did not like that tearless, half-bewildered and half-stony look she had. If she had shrieked and sobbed, and been evon petulant and unreasonable, he would have understood it better ; but this silent tenacity had an ugly look of pressure, and he wanted to rouse her out of its
Presently, in the midst of his talk, Gordon Frere, pale and breathless, came rushing through the garden and up into the room where Patricia was standing, still keeping guard over the dead.
The news had met him as he came in from St. John's, and half a dozen people had stopped him in the village to repeat it.
" Patricia !” he said, touching her lightly on the shoulder.
His voice seemed to break the spell. She turned hastily and held out her hand
“Oh, Gordon, how glad I am you have come ! you are all I have left," she said. “Look there, Gordon! Gordon ! he is dead!"
Then she turned away her head, and covering her face with her hands broke down into passionate sobs and tears.
And the doctor, looking at her critically, gave a little sigh of relief and said to himself, “Now she'll do."
“My darling! what can I do for you ?" said Gordon, taking her into his arms with a strange mixture of tenderness, protection, and shyness. “Patricia, don't give way like this, dear; you break my heart to see you!"
“He was so fond of you, Gordon!” said poor Patricia, looking up into his face. “How he loved you !"
“ And how I loved him !" answered the young man, brushing his hand over his eyes.
“We are one in our sorrow, dear! He was almost as much to me as he was to you!"
Ab, yes, you know him, and he loved you,” she repeated. “And I love you too,” he said in a deep voice.
Yes, I know you do,” she answered simply. “ You are the only person in the world who does now-all I have left.”
“And I will be always yours—always part of your very self, if you will have me, darling! We will never desert each other-nevernever !”
“Never !” she said, tears breaking her voice; the poor young people transacting their love affairs so innocently before the doctor and in the presence of the dead! “But oh! do not let us think of ourselves; let us think of him," she added with sudden remorse, turning towards the bed, where, flinging herself on her knees, she took the cold hand again in hers and kissed it fervently as if asking pardon for her momentary disloyalty. And Gordon was not ashamed to feel his own eyes dim and his eyelashes wet for sympathy and sorrow too. But he soon lifted her up again, and made her sit down while he stood by her, holding one of her hands in both of his; her other.laid lightly on the dear dead. No more was said between them. Quite quiet and silent they remained there, she gazing at the white face with its falling wreath of snowy hair before her, thinking only of him; he looking at the white face too, but thinking most of her and her desolate future. And in this silent companionship of sorrow they felt drawn closer together somehow than if they bad spoken for hours. They were unconscious of time, or who came and went about them. They were together in the presence of the man they had both loved, and whose spirit seemed with them still.
So they would have stayed probably till night; but the women who had been sent for-those mysterious death-bed women-came to fulfil the last offices, and the doctor gave Gordon a sign to take Patricia away. He thought there would be a difficulty and he had prepared his exhortations; but there was none of that feminine exaggeration of character in her which makes sorrowing women so often unmanageable. Besides, she felt that Gordon was her master now; that it was her duty to obey him as she had formerly obeyed her uncle. When he said she was to .go, she looked at him piteously, mutely beseeching him for leave to stay; but when he repeated his words, drawing her as if to lift her from the chair, she got up at once, and though she wept afresh she went with the simple obedience of a child.
Gordon kept with the poor desolate young thing the whole day through. But the long hours came to an end at last, and he too must leave her. It was his last leave-taking. He must be off early in the morning for Portsmouth, and neither pity nor sorrow, nor yet love, could make the time longer. They had talked but little through the day, but they had kept very near together. They seemed afraid of losing sight of each other; as if something would happen to separate them for ever if they drifted apart for a moment. There had been no pretence of reading, or of doing anything whatever with a purpose. They had either sat in the little sitting-room, side by side on the black horse-hair sofa, or they had wandered out into the garden, scarcely noticing how gloomy the day was—and how bright yesterday!—but looking at each familiar tree and flower as people do who look for the last time. And they had stood by the model of the old Holdfast, and had touched it with a lingering fondness as if it had been a creature that could feel. But as they walked round it, both Gordon who had sense, and Patricia who was not fantastic, turned pale and looked at each other with a sense of awe upon them, when they saw that, by some means not evident, the storm last night had broken off the figure head of the resolute-looking being that had symbolised the name, and that the legend underneath, painted by his own hand, “Robert Kemball, R.N., Commander," had been torn away with the device. They made no remark to each other when they saw this. They only looked up, and both were very pale. It foreshadowed nothing, explained nothing; but it gave them a feeling of superstitious dread that made the present burden heavier.
The hours passed, as all hours do, and the last moment had come. Many a time during the day Miss Pritchard and old mother Jose had come down, wanting to be of use; and now the former, thinking that Patricia would be none the worse for at least the appearance of womanly countenance, was knitting a brown woollen antimacassar by the dim light of one kitchen candle, lamenting in her heart the selfishness of the young in Patricia’s absorption in her grief for the one and her love for the other, and thinking it was a good thing, as matters had turned, that her sister Matilda had never married that old man. And yet, if she had, she would have had her pension, and Patricia would have gone to her own relations. Yet Miss Pritchard was by no means a bad-hearted woman. She was only human; and she lived in a small place, with a very narrow field in which to work out her life.
"Well! time's up; I must go, Patricia," said Gordon.
He was pale and desperately agitated. Up to this moment he had been the calmer, the more self-controlled of the two; now their positions were reversed, and it was he who had to be comforted.
“What o'clock is it?” asked Patricia, waking up as if from a dream. “Ten," said Miss Pritchard demurely.
“ Yes, it's time for you to go,” she answered. “Uncle likes the house shut up at ten.'
"You'll write to me?” he said, standing and holding her hands in his. “You know you will probably move from here ; you cannot stay here alone; so I shall not know where you are unless you tell me.”
“ You need not be afraid of her being left, Mr. Frere. I will look after her till she gets a better protectress," said Miss Pritchard in her precise voice.
She meant it kindly, but her words came in with a horrible jar on the young lovers. They had forgotten she was there, forgotten all but each other: and now her voice broke in between them like a sigo of the world and the future, and the conventionalities too, which were about to divide them.
"Yes, of course I will write," said Patricia. " And I shall want to hear from you too, Gordon. I shall have only your letters to make me happy. Happy! I shall never be happy again !" she cried. And she believed what she said.
The ancient schoolmistress shook her head softly; and though the tears were in her eyes, tears of honest human sympathy falling over her unlovely work, she knew by experience that time is not eternity and that the “never” of the young is of very short duration.
“ Come upstairs with me,” then said Gordon. “I would like to say my last good-bye to him.”
“God bless you, dear !” cried Patricia, flinging back her head with a gesture peculiar to herself, and which meant an outpour of love and thanks greater than she could put into words.
Her lips quivering and his set firm, hand in hand they went up the stairs and into the shabby little room that was now a sacred temple to them.
“Make a prayer with me, Patricia,” Gordon said. “It will be good to remember."
Yes,” she answered ; and she looked at the dead man--so she would have looked had he been alive-for his approval.
Kneeling down by the side of the bed they said the Lord's Prayer together, like two children at their good-night; nothing more; but both felt it their sacrament. Then they stood up, still holding by each other.
“And you will not forget me ?” said Gordon in a husky voice.
“ You feel then you are engaged to me, Patricia ? that you have promised to be my wife through good report and evil report, through poverty and all loss?”
“Was that what you meant last night ? ” said Patricia simply. “I did not understand you quite. If it is I am glad. Yes, I will be your wife, Gordon, and I will not love any one else, nor let any one love me."
“God bless you! Oh, how can I thank you enough for these dear words! He would have been glad, darling. He said so to me last night, and I was to have come to-day to get your promise. He wanted to know that you loved me, from your own mouth, before I went away. You do not mind having it to say now at such a sad time, do you, dear? You do not think I am selfish in putting it to you now-and here ? I could scarcely go away and leave it in doubt.
" It would have been cruel if you had,” she answered.
“ You like to feel bound to me, pledged to be my wife, to care for no one else, only me, all through your life ?”
She looked him full in the eyes: “Like it, dear! it is the only comfort I have," she said.
At another time she would have been shy and bashful, she would have laughed and cried and blushed; but the whole thing was too solemn now for any of the pretty follies or trepidations of love. It was an oath they were pledging, not a man wooing and a woman being won.
“And you will always feel that I am yours ? as much as if we were married already?” continued Gordon. “If there is anything in which I or my affairs—my money, Patricia ---can be of use to you, do not hesitate to go to Mr. Fletcher, and tell him who you are, and that I sent you. It breaks my heart to think how utterly alone and unfriended I am leaving you. If it were not for the dishonour I would stay and look after you."
"I shall have your love and his,” said Patricia, struggling against her tears and conquering them ; " and I will not let anything make me cowardly or complaining. I will bear my fate cheerfully, whatever it may be, for his sake and yours. I will be worthy of you both, Gordon.”
“I trust you, Patricia darling, beloved ! I trust you for all strength and honour as I trust the sun for shining," said Gordon fervently. “Never let us lose trust in each other-I in you, and you in me. Darling, promise me that.”
"Never, Gordon! I could not live if I did not trust you. Will you always believe in me ? ” she said, with a yearning kind of look.
“Will I always believe in the sun ? Could I doubt you, Patricia ?" If you came to me in rags, loaded with the world's scorn, I would believe you before the world! Now, good-bye, and God bless you, my heart's dear love!”
“Good-bye, Gordon ; and God bless you too !” said Patricia.
“ You will give me one kiss again to-night? You may, now you are my promised wife. I would not ask you if you ought not.”
“I have given you my love and my word, and that may well follow,” she said, and put her arms round him frankly.
He held her pressed close to his heart with one arm, passing his other hand lovingly over her hair, holding back her face while he looked long and tenderly into it.
“My beloved !” he said, and kissed her.
With a great sob he loosened her arms and his own, and she heard him dash down the stairs, and through the gate, and so on to the stony village road. She heard no more ; and Miss Pritchard running up at the sound of her fall, found her lying pale and senseless on the floor. Her strong spirit had given way, and the brave heart yielded to its pain at last.
Next day's post brought a letter from Aunt Hamley to her brother. It was not a very long letter, but it said a good deal in its space. It was written in a fine pointed hand, with long, sweeping tails and graceful curves that ran far into the next line, giving the page a tangled and cobwebbed look, more ladylike than legible.
It set forth in the beginning, as if it had been a legal declaration,