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THE weather changed on the morrow,
Coming home at nightfall, Roy found Jessie standing at the western window, surveying sorrowfully the unfavourable aspect of the heavens.
" It will be very unpleasant travelling in the rain!” she remarked as he entered. “The sun went down behind a portentous bank of clouds. And the wind is veering to the storm-quarter."
It was evident that the possibility of a single day's delay made her restless and anxious.
“The signs portend nothing worse than April showers, I hope," he encouraged her to believe. “Or, should there be a steady rain, you will soon ride out of it into the region of blue skies and milder airs. I see no reason for altering your arrangements. You will be sheltered and dry in the cars."
“True!” she answered, musingly, returning to the contemplation of the unpromising horizon.
She was perturbed, however, and unusually taciturn while they were at supper ; dull and spiritless during the hour they spent together in the sitting-room ; arousing herself with apparent effort to reply to his remarks, and rarely offering one of her own accord. Roy's attempts at cheerful conversation were less evenly sustained than was customary with him in her presence. It was not his intention that this last evening should be one of gloomy constraint, but it approximated this more nearly every moment. Both were abstracted, and each was unwilling that the other should discover the direction in which his and her thoughts were straying. So the pauses in the sluggish Aow of talk became more and more frequent, until, at nine o'clock Jessie arose, with a sigh of relief.
"I must get a good night's rest, if I am to travel tomorrow. Will you excuse me if I go upstairs thus early?”
“Do not let me detain you a moment. Is there nothing I can do to assist you?”
“Nothing—thank you! There will be time to strap my trunks in the morning. You still think I had better go-whatever may be the weather?” stopping with the door in her hand.
“I do, certainly ; that is, if you are not afraid of adding to your cold—if you are well enough."
“My cold is nothing. I have ordered breakfast at half-past six. I am glad the train does not leave so early as it did last year. Good-night!”
The cold, indifferent accents sank to the bottom of his heart like lead. What a millstone about this woman's neck was her marriage vow! His endeavours to make it
lighter, and her existence endurable—the work to which he had given his best energies and wisest deliberations ; the self-abnegation and prayerful struggle he had accepted as the penalty of his grievous indiscretion, had proved futile. He had guarded eye, tongue, and action for five months; drilled them in friendly looks, words, and deeds, lest a glimmer of the affection that glowed—a pent but consuming fire in his soul-should offend or dismay her, had ministered to her with a lover's constancy and tenderness without a hint of love's reward. And this was the end! Some significant glance, an intonation, an excess of solicitude for her welfare, had betrayed his design to win her anew, and she had taken the alarm; was terrified and reluctant, without the power of escape. Or her constitution-physical and spiritual-had succumbed to the attrition of duty against womanly instinct. With vain care he had kept her shackles out of sight. Everything in her surroundings; the very pronunciation of her name by acquaintances, had reminded her continually of her anomalous position. Neither wife, nor maid, she stood, according to her morbid perceptions, alone and banned, without so much as a title to the shelter of his roof, except as a bondwoman. She could not forget that she was a slave. The untamable heart-in which the “ love of liberty" was a “passion," was beating itself to death against the bars he had foolishly hoped to cushion and wreathe until she should cease to feel them as a restraint.
She had not loved him when she married him. That this change in her sentiments was not a passing girlish caprice, he had evidence in the words she had written to him while the right of free speech remained to her.
“ Months of doubt and suffering have brought me to the determination to confess this without reserve."
“ Doubt and suffering !" What were these to the horrors of her actual bondage ?
“ From which I cannot release her!” he repeated for the thousandth time.
His habit was to go to the library when she left him for the night, but he lingered, this evening, in the apartment he had fitted up for her with such fond pride; which she had made a sacred place by her abiding. There was a cruel pleasure in noting the tokens of her recent presence; in inhaling the odours of the flowers she had tended ; in touching the books she had handled. She could never be more to bim than she was now. He believed that she must, from this hour, be less; that the solace of her friendship would be withheld. Else, why her anxiety to be away from him? her chafing at the threatened delay of a day in her flight back to the only
real home she had ever known? Was the memory of the evanescent phantasy of her girlhood—the brief space during which she had deluded herself into the belief that she loved him, so sore and hateful that she would shun the sight of one who kept it in constant remembrance Could it be true that he had, in the face of these frightful odds, cherished a hope that he might yet persuade her into a preference for his companionship?
A loud ring at the door-bell startled him into consciousness of the hour and place. Phæbe had gone up to bed, and Mr. Fordham went himself to admit the unseasonable visitor.
“ Good-evening!” said a familiar voice when the door was unclosed, and Dr. Baxter walked in as naturally and coolly as if it were not ten o'clock at night, and he plentifully besprinkled with rain. “I was out thinking-and walking, after the warm day-and chancing to observe that I was at your door, I stopped to say 'Good-bye' to the lassie-to your wife. Mrs. Baxter mentioned to-night, at tea, that she was going to Dundee to-morrow.”
He had obeyed Roy's impulse in the direction of the sitting-room, but declined to take a chair. His cravat was a damp string; the handkerchief twisted about his left hand bore marks of terrific usage, and when he removed his hat, every one of his stiff grey hairs appeared to have gone into business on its own account, so distinct was its independent existence. His eyes were like those of a partially awakened somnambulist, and his voice had dreamy inflections. Had his own mood been less sad, Roy must have smiled at the grotesque apparition, uncouth even to one so familiar with the peculiarities of the good man, as was his coadjutor in the business of his life. As it was, he appreciated gratefully the love the old scholar bore his former ward, and the new proof of this, evinced by his stepping without the charmed circle of metaphysical or scientific lucubrations to pay this, for him, rare visit of neighbourly courtesy and affectionate interest.
“I am sorry Jessie has retired," he said, sincerely. “ She would have been happy to see you. But, in view of to-morrow's journey, she went up to her chamber an hour ago. I am afraid she is asleep by this time."
The doctor shook himself out of a menancing relapse.
"Eh! asleep-is she? Ah, well! that is as it should be. Don't disturb her! I merely called to kiss her, and bid her God-speed.' She is a dear and a good girl. Her price is above rubies. She carries our love and best wishes with her into her retirement. Since she is not up, I will leave my message with you. I believe-it seems to me that I had a message"—with an ominous twitch of the handkerchief, and a dreamier accent.
“She will appreciate your kind remembrance of her, sir. She prizes your friendship very fondly.”
“Ah!” another mental shoulder jog. “ We shall hardly see her again until autumn, I presume? I infer as much from what Mrs. Baxter has told me of her plans.”
« There has been ao definite time set for her return,"
said Roy, evasively, his heart heavier than before at the thought that Jessie had expressed to her cousin a desire for the long sojourn in the country.
Yet if he had failed to keep her with him now, what warrant had he for confidence in his ability to lure her back?
“ You will be lonely without her?" the worthy President observed, something in the atmosphere of this, her especial apartment, conveying to his straying wits an indistinct perception of the void her absence would make in the daily life of the man before him. In his own way, he missed his restless and faithful Jane when she was not at home.
“I shall !”
The doctor looked at him quickly and keenly, then put out his hand to pat his shoulder.
“Keep up a brave heart, my lad! although the desire of your eyes be removed from your side, for a few weeks. Nothing cheats time of heaviness like work and hope. One you will find here in your accustomed avocations. The second will culminate in fruition when you are reunited to her you love, and, please God-in the blessedness of a father's love and delight, when your firstborn is given into your arms. It is a joy He has seen fit to deny me. I shall take my name down into the grave with me. His will be done! But I have not, on that account, the less sympathy with you at this juncture. Say to our Jessie that our prayers will follow her. You will go to her at the beginning of vacation, of course. And should you wish to run down to Dundee, for a day or two, each week, during the remainder of term-time, I will gladly take your classes.
You can recompense me by letting me christen the heir”-a fatherly smile overspreading the dry face. “The advent is expected towards the last of July, Mrs. Baxter says.”
Conscious that, in the drunkenness of his astonishiment, he returned a lame and seemingly ungracious reply to offer and congratulations, Roy made no movement to detain the eccentric guest, when he, after another dazed look around the apartment, as if wondering how he had got there, espied the door, and approached it with the briefest of “Good-nights."
Good-nights." While the master of the house stood rooted to the floor, thé visitant accomplished his exit unchallenged and unattended. Another man would have taken mortal offence at the lack of respectful ceremony. The doctor, in his semi-trance, had not an idea of the commotion he had excited.
“I am not surprised that I am an offence in her eyes, that she must accuse me in her heart, of being less than man,” muttered the husband, at length, passing a shaking hand over his pale forehead. “She ought to hate me for my seeming indifference-my unfeeling silence. She would if she were not an angel. My poor girl! And she has borne it all, without a murmur; like the brave true woman she is. God forgive me.
I can nerer pardon myself!"
aided one another to maintain, to assure you that, in no one particular would I have had your action different from what it has been-that, in language and demeanour you have been alike noble. Deserving your reprobation, I have received tender respect; having forfeited by my fickleness and falsehood all claim to kindness, I have been cherished as the truest wife in the land might hope to be. Something tells me that, when we part to-morrow, it will be to meet no more in time. It may be that the presentiment is born of my distempered imagination ; but it has drawn my whole soul out in a longing I cannot frame into speech, to be at peace with you; to feel your hand again upon my head ; to hear you call me oncejust once more, by the holy name of Wife !
“For I am your wife, Roy! Unworthy as I am of the title, it is the only glory I have. Until yesterday, I had dreamed of saying this to you in very different lan-guage and circumstances. It is just that this expectation should be disappointed. I do not appeal from my sentence of exile. But, by the memory of the love you once had for me—and I was full of faults then as now-do not send me away unforgiven, and starving for your affection -my husband !"
When he looked up, she was kneeling at his side, her eyes streaming with the tears that had impeded her utter
He was sitting, his arms crossed upon the table, and his head laid upon them, when Jessie glided in stealthily. Over her white wrapper she had thrown a crimson shawl, and her long hair was loose upon her shoulders. Whatever resolve had drained her cheeks and lips of bloom, and lighted the steady flame in her eyes, had been acted upon with precipitancy, lest her nerve should fail.
She halted upon the threshold, on seeing the bowed figure; then advanced more rapidly, but without noise.
“Roy, are you awake?”
sick ? "
His voice was hollow and tremulous to plaintiveness ; but she took heart from its exceeding, if mournful, gentleness.
"I cannot sleep to-night," she commenced, hurriedly, “ still less can I leave you to-morrow, without expressing to you, however feebly, my sense of the goodness and mercy you have showed me from the hour I entered this house until now.
may have appeared unobservant and unthankful ; may have seemed to accept your benefits as if they were my due, when, in reality, I was unworthy of the least of them all; but it was because I did not know in what form to express my gratitude. If, in my acquiescence in your proposal that I should go to my sister for a season, I have used few words; have not thanked you for this fresh proof of your delicate watchfulness over my comfort and happiness, I beg you to attribute my shortcomings to other reasons than insensibility or misconstruction of your motives. I was entirely unprepared for the suggestion. It was a shock to me, because I had dared to believe that you would see fit to let me remain here with
you until vacation, when we could go to Dundee together."
Standing on the other side of the table, she saw a slight but eager change in the expression of the mute form. It was as if his hearing were strained for her next utterance, but the features were still concealed.
On the roof of the oay-window, the soft, large drops of the April shower were beginning to fall in musical whispers.
Jessie put out a hand upon the marble top of the table to steady herself, as she resumed. There was that in this continued silence that awed and made her incoherent. It was unlike Roy's usual reception of her advances—his Teady and indulgent courtesy. Her heart beat painfully and fast, but she did not swerve from her resolution.
“I know you so well—your purity of purpose; the standard of excellence you set for your motive and deed; your earnest desire to make me happy—that I fear you will
, when I am gone, accuse yourself of want of skill or judgment in your treatment of me. I want you to remember then, that I broke through the reserve we have
Still dumbly, he drew her to him ; put back the hair from her face, every line of his own astir with a passion of pity and adoration she hardly dared to look upon. It was a minute before he coul, articulate. Then the tense lips were moved into womanly softness.
“You can forgive me, then, my Wife! Thank God!”
He laid his cheek to hers, and she felt the great sobs of the breast against which she leaned.
But for a long time there was nothing more said.
Except by the rain-drops whispering over their heads, broken, now and then, by the wind into little gushes that sounded like laughter, happy to tearfulness.
In the plenitude of her cousinly compassion for the lonely husband, Mrs. Baxter coaxed her spouse into escorting her to Mr. Fordham's on Thursday evening. The wind had settled into an easterly gale, after yesterday's genial warmth; the day had been unpleasant, and the clouds were still dripping at irregular intervals, as if wrung by impatient hands.
“But it is an act of common humanity to visit the poor fellow in his solitude, my dear, while his desolation is fresh upon him!” she sighed, sympathetically.
“Mr. Fordham was in the library,” said Phæbe, with an air of bewilderment at the lady's query, and to the library the consoler accordingly tripped, with footfall of
down, and countenance robed in decorous and becoming pensiveness.
Her light tap was unanswered, but uncertain of this, she took the benefit of the doubt, and entering bouncingly, as was her habit, she surprised Jessie, sitting upon her husband's knee, one hand buried in his hair, the other clutching his beard, in a fashion at once undignified and
Both were laughing so heartily that their neglect of the warning knock was explained.
When the confusion of mutual explanations was over, Mrs. Baxter learned, to her amazement, that the journey to Dundee was postponed until after the College Commencement.
“I wouldn't go when I found that Roy wanted to get rid of me!” said the transformed wife. “When I put him into the confessional, he owned who was his fellowconspirator in the scheme for my banishment. For shame, Cousin Jane! I have long suspected you of a weakness for the handsome Professor, but you sit convicted of a deliberate attempt to remove him from the guardianship of his legal protector, that your designs upon his affections might be more vigorously prosecuted. And no sooner do you suppose that the coast is clear, than you present yourself, arrayed in your best dress and choicest smiles, and with actually a rose-bud in your brooch! to make sure of your game. I shall never trust in human friendship again!”
“You are ungenerous to triumph over me so openlyand in the poor, dear Doctor's hearing !” returned her cousin, holding her fan before her face, with a theatrical show of detected guilt.
“I ought to have some compensation for the excruciating anguish the discovery cost me," retorted Jessie. “Tongue cannot describe the tremendous struggle I went through before I could bring myself to undertake the investigation of your perfidy and his susceptibility. I know just how Esther felt when she screwed her courage to the sticking-point, and made up her mind and her toilette to face Ahasuerus and a possible gallows."
Roy was pretending to listen to the Doctor's elaborate disquisition upon an important political question, but he stole a sidelong glance at the sparkling face, across the hearth, and smiled, in gladness of content.
She was his blithe, lovesome witch again. The baleful enchantment that had ensnared her fancy and distracted her thoughts from dwelling upon him and his love-(he refused to believe that he had ever lost her heart)-was destroyed, and, by him, remembered no more as a thing of dread. More to spare him pain than to shield Orrin, Jessie had not entered into the particulars of her estrangement, or revealed who was the prime agent in bringing it about. Wyllys's name was not Inentioned by either.
“I had a bad, wild dream,” she thus explained her defection. “A dream that made me doubt you—Heaven -myself—everything ! that robbed me of love and hope, with faith. I was susceptible, giddy, undisciplined; and
I was grievously tempted by an evil spirit. Maybe"humbly—“I am no better or wiser now; but I am ready and thankful to give myself up to your guidance. I ought to be a good woman in future ; for I have been dealt with very tenderly by my Heavenly Father-and by you, my best earthly friend!
Roy had no fear. His second wooing was, he felt, crowned with richer, more enduring success than the first had been. He cared not to ask, or to conjecture by what art his image had been clouded over, since he saw it now clearly mirrored in a heart tried by refining fires.
The christening feast was not held until December, at which date Master Kirke Lanneau Fordham was four months old.
Eunice had taken her school and cottage for a year, and the interesting fête could not be appointed until she could make her arrangements to be with her sister. Work for the good of others, and wholesome meditation, had brought to her, as they must to all healthy, Godfearing souls, healing and peace during the months 'sbe had spent in her new domicile. With the June vacation had come Jessie and her husband; and when the little claimant upon their love and care arrived, the lonely woman, who had put thoughts of her own wifehood and maternity from her for ever, when she turned the key upon the souvenirs of her one love-dream, opened her heart and took in, with the babe, comfort and hope that were, to her, fresh and beautiful life. What Roy's arguments and Jessie's entreaties could not accomplish, the innocent young eyes and clinging baby-finger, effected within a month after her nephew's birth. If Kirke went to Hamilton, she would follow, she promised, and early December saw her domesticated in the Fordham household.
“I wish Orrin Wyllys and his wife were not coming, this evening !” said Jessie, confidentially to her sister, as they were arraying the boy for the grand occasion.
Eunice looked in no wise surprised at the impetuous exclamation, albeit it was the first avowal of dislike of Roy's relative she had ever heard from Jessie's lips.
“It would not have been expedient to omit them from your list of invitations, my dear!" she returned, with her slow, bright smile. “For Roy's sake, you must disguise your antipathy."
“Antipathy isn't too strong a word, Euna! You cannot understand what reason I have to distrust that man! to despise both himself and his wife! And the début of Papa's boy ought to be all brightness to Mamma!" suspending the process of the toilette to strangle him with caresses.
“ He cannot hurt you now, love. Even poisonous breath soon passes from the finely-tempered steel.”
The look and tone silenced the other. Eunice's insight of the tempter's true character was deeper than she had imagined. Even she never dreamed how, and at what cost, the knowledge was gained.
Miss Kirke was an attractive feature of the assembly before she was aware of his vicinity. His remark, delivered with his most insinuating smile, and in his inimitable manner, was evidently a compliment to the beauty of the child; but she met it with lightness bordering upon contempt. Dropping the flower, she lifted the babe from his temporary throne on the stuffed back of an easy chair,
and walked away.
that night. Many thought her handsomer than her more lively sister. There was not one present who would not have ridiculed the idea of a comparison between her classic beauty and Mrs. Wyllys' shrewish physiognomy. Once, the two ladies talked together for five minutes, near the centre of the front parlour, the light from the chandelier streaming on both. Eunice was dressed with her usual just taste, in a lustreless mourning silk, a tiny illusion ruff enhancing the fairness of neck and face, her abundant hair arranged simply without ornament. She possessed the rare accomplishment of standing still without stiffness, and no nervous play of fingers or features marted the exquisite repose of her bearing, as she listened to or replied to her companion.
Hester was in the full glory of brocade, diamonds, and point lace, with French flowers twisted in her pale tresses, and trailing bramble-wise down her back. She fidgeted incessantly; her skin was muddy with biliousness and discontent; she perked her faint eyebrows into a frown every other minute; her laugh was forced, and the viscid tones had a twang of pain or ill-humour. She was getting very tired of keeping up the appearance of conjugal felicity with so little assistance from her lord ; growing bitterly conscious of the motives that had impelled him to the uncongenial marriage, and disposed to eye jealously every woman to whom he paid the most trifling attention.
“I suppose you are baby-mad, like the rest ?" she said, pulling viciously at the golden chain of her bouquetholder. “I am in a deplorable minority here, to night. Christening parties are always a bore to me.
I am so sincere, you know, so apt to say what I think, that I can never go into raptures over the little monkeys, as everybody else does. I presume, now, that it is considered Tather a nice child—if there is such a thing—isn't it?"
“We think him a noble little fellow; but we do not require the rest of the world to agree with us,” replied Eunice, with unruffled politeness.
"I detest children! just perfectly abominate babies! I wouldn't have one for a kingdom. And Orrin loves his own ease too much to want them. He is an awful hypocrite, Miss Kirke. You were very wise not to get married. He can't abide children"-raising her voice
although he is making a fool of himself over that bundle of lace, lawn, and flannel yonder."
Eunice, inwardly provoked at the irreverent and inelegant description of the royal cherub, could yet respond, with apparent composure.
"He does it from a sense of duty, or a desire to please, probably."
She followed the direction of the wife's scornful eyes.
The folding doors were open, and through the archway they had a view of the mother, tempting her boy with a flower she had taken from a bouquet near by, laughing at his open mouth, starting eyes, and fluttering arms as he tried to seize it. Orrin had approached her while his wife was speaking to Eunice; accosted her
Mrs. Wyllys tittered shrilly, and clapped her hands.
“A decided rebuff!” she sneered, more loudly than good breeding would have counselled. “It is strange, Miss Kirke, that your lady-killer is so slow to learn the mortifying fact that he ceases to be irresistible when he has been guilty of the mistake of matrimony."
Orrin, nervously sensitive to her tones, heard and saw her, while he affected to do neither ; saw, likewise, by whom she was standing, and that she showed beside her neighbour as a tawdry, artificial rose, faded and tumbled, does when near a stately, living lily.
Seeing and admitting all this, he heaved an inaudible sigh that did not touch his eyes or chasten his careless smile. His inward moan was not—“Me miserable!” or “ Fool that I was!” or anything else poetical or tragic; but-“If I could have afforded it!”
“The fair Euna will wear better than mia cara sposa!” he owned, candidly. “But money outlasts beauty, and is more necessary to a man's happiness. Love is only a luxury; an indulgence too costly for the enjoyment of most wedded pairs. Beryl eyes and a Greek profile would not have paid my debts, nor the future claims of carriagemakers, and horse-jockeys, and yacht-builders. No! I have done all that man could, in the like circumstances. Better bread buttered on both sides by Hester, than a dry slice with Eunice."
He owed Miss Kirke no grudge; found placid satisfaction in reviewing their intercourse, akin to that he experienced in the contemplation of a fine, mezzo-tinto engraving or a moonlit landscape. But Jessie irritated and piqued him. If her gay insensibility were bravado, he would yet make her drop the mask. His wife was right in affirming that the passion for conquest was not extinct after a year of married bliss.
“She did worship me in those days !” he ruminated. “Worshipped me madly and entirely, as men are seldom loved, as few women are capable of loving. Does she take me for an idiot in supposing that I credit the thoroughness of her cure !”
Lounging in a desultory way through the rooms, bow. ing to this, and exchanging a pleasant word with that one of the friends collected to do honour to the infant scion of the house, he contrived to waylay Jessie in the hall. She had transferred the baby to the nurse's care, and was returning to her guests. A fierce impulse possessed him as he marked her happy face, flushed by excitement into loveliness that had never been hers in her girlhood. She was passing him with a slight and nonchalant bow, when he arrested her.
“ Can I