“I was too proud, too selfish, to make others happy,” he said. “I thought it all over yesterday, and the past came back again so vividly, especially the part connected with Katy. Oh, Katy, I did abuse her!” and a bitter sob attested the genuineness of Wilford’s grief for his treatment of Katy. “I thought because I took her from a lower walk of life than mine, that she was bound by every tie of gratitude to do just what I said, and I set myself at work to crush her every feeling and impulse which savored of her early home. I despised her family, I treated them with contempt. I broke Katy’s heart, and now I must die without telling her I am sorry. But you’ll tell her, father, and you, too, Bell, how, dying, I tried to pray, but could not for thought of my sin to her. She will not be glad that I am dead. I know her better than to think that; and I believe she loves me. But, after I am gone, and the duties of the world have closed up the gap I shall leave, I see a brighter future for her than her past has been; and you may tell her I am—” He could not then say “I am willing.”
Few husbands could have done so then, and he was not an exception.
Wholly exhausted he lay quiet for a moment, and when he spoke again it was of Genevra. Even here he did not try to screen himself. He was the one to blame, he said. Genevra was true, was innocent, as he ascertained too late.
“Would you like to see her if she were living?” came to Bell’s lips, but the fear that it would be too great a shock prevented their utterance.
He had no suspicion of her presence, and it was best he should not. Katy was the one uppermost in his mind, and in the letter Bell sent to her the next day, he tried to write: “Good-by, my darling,” but the words were scarcely legible, and his nerveless hand fell helpless at his side as he said:
“She will never know the effort it cost me, nor hear me say that I hope I am forgiven. It came to me last night, the peace for which I’ve sought so long, and Dr. Grant has prayed, and now the way is not so dark, but Katy will not know.”
Katy would know, for she was coming to him on the morrow, as a brief telegram announced, and Wilford’s face grew brighter with thoughts of seeing her. He knew when the train was due, and with nervous restlessness he asked repeatedly what time it was, reducing the hours to minutes, and counting his own pulses to see if he would last so long.
“Save me, doctor,” he whispered to Morris. “Keep me alive till Katy comes. I must see Katy again.”
And Morris, tenderer than a brother, did all he could to keep the feeble breath from going out ere Katy came.
“I must have clean linen on my bed and on my person, too,” Wilford said, “for Katy is coming, and I must not look repulsive.”
The clean white linen was brought, and when it was arranged a smile of childish satisfaction crept around the lips, as Wilford said: