And yet, there was the primitive instinct of self-preservation combating her inclination, urging her on to make one more final effort. Back and forth, through the snow about the lake she wandered; without being able to decide. Her strength was fast ebbing. Which—which, should it be? “God have mercy!” she cried, and fell unconscious.
THE NIGHT IN THE SNOWSTORM.
“Announced by all the trumpets of
Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven.”—Emerson.
All through that long, wild night David searched and shouted, to find only snow and silence.
Through the darkness and the falling flakes he could not see more than a foot ahead, and when he would stumble over a stone or the fallen trunk of a tree, he would stoop down and search through the drifts with his bare hands, thinking perhaps that she might have fallen, and not finding her, he would again take up his fruitless search, while cold fear gnawed at his heart.
At home in the warm farm house, sat the Squire who had done his duty. The consciousness of having done it, however, did not fill him with that cheerful glow of righteousness that is the reward of a good conscience—on the contrary, he felt small. It might have been imagination, but he felt, somehow, as if his wife and Kate were shunning him. Once he had tried to take his wife’s hand as she stood with her face pressed to the window trying to see if she could make out the dim outline of David returning with Anna, but she withdrew her hand impatiently as she had never done in the thirty years of their married life. Amasy’s hardness was a thing no longer to be condoned.
Furthermore, when the clock had struck eleven and then twelve, and yet no sign of David or Anna, the Squire had reached for his fur cap and announced his intention of “going to look for ’em.” But like the proverbial worm, the wife of his bosom had turned, and with all the determination of a white rabbit she announced:
“If I was you, Amasy, I’d stay to hum; seems as if you had made almost enough trouble for one day.” With the old habit of authority, strong as ever, he looked at the worm, but there was a light in its eyes that warned him as a danger signal.
They were alone together, the Squire and his wife, and each was alone in sorrow, the yoke of severity she had bowed beneath for thirty years uncomplainingly galled to-night. It had sent her boy out into the storm—perhaps to his death. There was little love in her heart for Amasy.
He tried to think that he had only done his duty, that David and Anna would come back, and that, in the meantime, Louisa was less a comfort to him, in his trouble, than she had ever been before. It was, of course, his trouble; it never occurred to him that Louisa’s heart might have been breaking on its own account.