Yes, for the second time the die was cast. Henry was already afoot on the adventure perilous. Now it was Mike’s turn. These young people had passionately invoked those terrible gods who fulfil our dreams, and already the celestial machinery was beginning to move in answer. Perhaps it just a little took their breath, to see the great wheels so readily turning at the touch of their young hands; but they were in for it now, and with stout hearts must abide the issue.
This was to be Esther and Mike’s first experience of parting, and their hearts sickened at the thought. Love surely does well in this world, so full of snares and dangers, to fear to lose from its eyes for a moment the face of its beloved; and in this respect the courage of love is the more remarkable. How bravely it takes the appalling risks of life! To separate for an hour may mean that never as long as the world lasts will love hear the voice it loves again. “Good-bye,” love has called gaily so often, and waved hands from the threshold, and the beloved has called “good-bye” and waved, and smiled back—for the last time. And yet love faces the fears, not only of hours, but of weeks and months; weeks and months on seas bottomless with danger, in lands rife with unknown evils, dizzily taking the chances of desperate occupations. And the courage is the greater, because, finally, in this world, love alone has anything to lose. Other losses may be more or less repaired; but love’s loss is, of its essence, irreparable. Other fair faces and brave hearts the world may bring us, but never that one face! Alas! for the most precious of earthly things, the only precious thing of earth, there is no system of insurance. The many waters have quenched love, and the floods drowned it,—yet in the wide world is there no help, no hope, no recompense.
The love that bound this little circle of young people together was so strong and warm that it had developed in them an almost painful sensibility to such risks of loss. So it was that expressions of affection and outward endearments were more current among them than is usual in a land where manners, from a proper fear of exaggeration, run to a silly extreme of unresponsiveness. They never met without showing their joy to be again together; never parted without that inner fear that this might be their last chance of showing their love for each other.
“You all say good-bye as if you were going to America!” Myrtilla Williamson had once said; “I suppose it’s your Irish grandmother.” And no doubt the empressement had its odd side for those who saw only the surface.
Thus for those who love love, who love to watch for it on human faces, Mike’s good-bye at the railway station was a sight worth going far to see.
“My word, they seem to be fond of each other, these young people!” said a lady standing at the door of the next carriage.