“Yes, I have been so sorry, Mark—so tired, so sad, and life was such a burden, I would gladly have laid it down.”
“The burden is now removed,” Mark said, and then he told her how, arrived at Albany, he had telegraphed to his mother, asking where Helen was.
“In Silverton,” was the reply, and so he came on in the morning train, meeting his mother in Springfield, as he had half expected to do, knowing that she could leave New York in time to join him there.
“No words of mine,” he said, “are adequate to describe the thrill of joy with which I looked again upon the hills and rocks so identified with you that I loved them for your sake, hailing them as old, familiar friends, and actually growing sick and faint with excitement when, through the leafless woods, I caught the gleam of Fairy Pond, where I gathered the lilies for you. Does my darling remember it?”
He knew she did by the clasp of her hand, and he continued:
“Had a dead body risen from its grave, and walked into the farmhouse, carrying its coffin with it, it could not have created greater consternation, or made worse havoc with the people’s wits than did my sudden appearance in their midst. Good Aunt Betsy, I am sorry to say, fell the entire length of the cellar stairs, spraining her ankle, bruising her elbow shockingly, and, direst calamity of all, in her estimation, breaking the dish of charlotte russe she was holding in her hand. There is a wedding in progress, I learned from mother, and it seems very meet that I should come at this time, making, in reality, a double wedding, when I can truly claim my bride,” and Mark kissed Helen passionately, laughing to see how the blushes broke over her white face, and burned upon her neck.
Those were happy moments which they passed together upon that ledge of rocks, happy enough to atone for all the dreadful past, and when at last they arose and slowly retraced their steps to the farmhouse, it seemed to Mark that Helen’s cheeks were rounder, fuller, than when he found her, while Helen knew that the arm on which she leaned was stronger than when it first inclosed her an hour or two ago.
Many times Aunt Betsy had hobbled to the door, and shading her eyes with her hand, had looked wistfully up the hill in quest of Mark and Helen, wondering why they stayed out so long, when they must know the sun was nearly down, and wondering next if Morris would never go home about his business and give Katy a chance to dress.
Poor, worried, unfortunate Aunt Betsy! her foot was very lame, and her arm was badly bruised; but she bandaged it up in camphor and sugar, wincing at the terrible smart when the wash was at first applied, but saying to Morris, who asked if it did not hurt cruelly: “Yes, it hurts some, but nothin’ to what the poor soldiers is hurt; and I wouldn’t mind it an atom if I hadn’t broke the dish with the heathenish name.”