“I will nurse you, my husband, till you are well; then you must go back whence you came, confess your fault, rejoin your regiment, and by your faithfulness wipe out the stain of desertion. Then, when the war is over, or you are honorably discharged, I will—be your wife. I may not love you at first as once I did, but I shall try, and He, who counsels me to tell you this, will help me, I am sure.”
It was almost pitiful now to see the doctor, as, spaniel-like, he crouched at Adah’s feet, kissing her hands and blessing her ’mid his tears. “He would be worthy of her, and they should yet be so happy.”
Adah suffered him to caress her for a moment, and then told him she must go, for Mrs. Ellsworth would wonder at her long absence, and possibly institute a search. Pressing one more kiss upon her hand the doctor crept back to his hiding place, while Adah went slowly to the house where she knew Irving Stanley was anxiously waiting for her. She dared not meet him alone now, for latterly each time they had so met, she knew she had kept at bay the declaration trembling on his lips, and which now must never be listened to. So she stayed away from the pleasant parlor where all the morning he sat chatting with his sister, who guessed how much he loved the beautiful and accomplished girl, whom, by way of his sister Augusta he now knew as the Brownie he had once seen at Madam ——’s school, in New York.
Right-minded and high-principled, Mrs. Ellsworth had conquered any pride she might at first have felt—any reluctance to her brother’s marrying her governess, and now like him was anxious to have it settled. But Adah gave him no chance that day, and late in the afternoon he rode back to his regiment, wondering at the change in Miss Gordon, and why her face was so deadly white, and her voice so husky, as she bade him good-by.
Poor Adah! Hers was now a path of suffering, such as she had never known before. But she did her duty to the doctor faithfully, nursing him with the utmost care; but never expressing to him the affection she did not feel. It was impossible to keep his presence there a secret from the two old negroes, and knowing she could trust them, she told them of the wounded Union soldier, enlisting their sympathies for him, and thus procuring for him the care of older and more experienced people than herself.
He was able at length to return, and one pleasant summer night, just three weeks after his arrival at Sunnymead, Adah walked with him to the woods, and kneeling with him by a running stream, whose waters farther away would yet be crimson with the blood of our slaughtered brothers, she commended him to God. Through the leafy branches the moonbeams were shining, and they showed to Adah the expression of the doctor’s wasted face as he said to her at parting: “I have kissed you many times, my darling, but you have never returned it. Please do so once, dear Lily, for the sake of the olden time. It will make me a better soldier.”