“My Dear Jacob,—I leave you a heavy task, which I know well is, in your eyes, a mere burden. But, for my sake, accept it. The man who runs away has small right to counsel courage. But you know what my struggle has been. You’ll judge me mercifully, if no one else does. There is in you, too, the little, bitter drop that spoils us all; but you won’t be alone. You have your wife, and you love her. Take my place here, care for our people, speak of us sometimes to your children, and pray for us. I bless you, dear fellow. The only moments of comfort I have ever known this last year have come from you. I would live on if I could, but I must—must have sleep.”
Julie dropped the paper. She turned to look at her husband.
“Since I read that,” he said, in a low voice, “I have been sitting here alone—or, rather, it is my belief that I have not been alone. But”—he hesitated—“it is very difficult for me to speak of that—even to you. At any rate, I have felt the touch of discipline, of command. My poor cousin deserted. I, it seems”—he drew a long and painful breath—“must keep to the ranks.”
“Let us discuss it,” said Julie; and sitting down, hand in hand, they talked quietly and gravely.
Suddenly, Delafield turned to her with renewed emotion.
“I feel already the energy, the honorable ambition you will bring to it. But still, you’d have given it up, Julie? You’d have given it up?”
Julie chose her words.
“Yes. But now that we are to keep it, will you hate me if, some day—when we are less sad—I get pleasure from it? I sha’n’t be able to help it. When we were at La Verna, I felt that you ought to have been born in the thirteenth century, that you were really meant to wed poverty and follow St. Francis. But now you have got to be horribly, hopelessly rich. And I, all the time, am a worldling, and a modern. What you’ll suffer from, I shall perhaps—enjoy.”
The word fell harshly on the darkened room. Delafield shivered, as though he felt the overshadowing dead. Julie impetuously took his hand.
“It will be my part to be a worldling—for your sake,” she said, her breath wavering. Their eyes met. From her face shone a revelation, a beauty that enwrapped them both. Delafield fell on his knees beside her, and laid his head upon her breast. The exquisite gesture with which she folded her arms about him told her inmost thought. At last he needed her, and the dear knowledge filled and tamed her heart.