“And you will wait?” she exclaimed approvingly. “You will not stir till the thing is sure?”
He would not stir till the thing was sure.
[Illustration: “I am waiting busily for her slayer.”]
As soon as it was dark enough to slip over to the Byingtons’ unseen, she went, bearing to Ruth Isabel’s apologetic good-bys, trying her small best to play at words with the General, and quickly getting away again, grateful for a breath of their atmosphere, though distressfully convinced that Ruth had divined the whole trouble, through the joy betrayed by herself on hearing that Leonard would be away for a week.
She went home and slept like a weary child, and neither the next day nor the next, nor the next, was so awful as this first had been; they lacked the crackle and glare, and the crash, of the burning and falling temple.
A DOUBLE RETURN
Let us not attempt the picture of Isabel keeping the happy guise of a wedding guest among her kindred and childhood playmates while her heart burned with perpetual misery, yearning, and alarm. “My baby, my baby!” cried her breast, while the babe slept sweetly under faultless care.
Nor need we draw a close portrait of her husband’s mind, if mind it could longer be called. A horror of sleep, a horror of being awake and aware, remorse, phantoms, voices, sudden blazings of wrath as suddenly gone, sweating panics, that craven care of life which springs so rank as the soul decays, and a steady, cunning determination to keep whole the emptied shell of reputation and rank,—these were the things that filled his hours by day, by night; these, and a frightful expectance of one accusing, child-claiming ghost that never came. The air softened to Indian summer; the ice faded off the pool; a million leaves, crimson and bronze, scarlet and gold, dropped tenderly upon its silvering breadth and lay still; and both the joyless master of the larger house and the merry maid of the cottage asked Heaven impatiently if the pond would never freeze over again.
It was Saturday afternoon when Giles, asked by Sarah Stebbens where Mr. Arthur was, told her he was again, as he had been so many times the last three days, down by the water, sitting at the edge of the overhanging bank; or, as the Englishman expressed it, “’dreamink the ’appy hours aw’y.’” So the week passed out; a second came in, and the rector of All Angels went to his sacred office.
He knew, before he appeared in the chancel, that Mrs. Morris was in her accustomed place, and Ruth and her father in theirs, and that Leonard was not yet reported back nor looked for; but exactly as he began to read, “’Dearly beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us, in sundry places, to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness, and that we should not dissemble nor cloak them before the face of Almighty God our heavenly Father’”—a sickness filled Mrs. Morris’s frame, a deathly hue overspread the minister’s face, and Leonard came in and sat beside his father and sister.