“Mr. D—— charged me, Mr. Munro,” she began after our first ceremonious greeting, “to give this into no hands but yours. I have kept it securely with my diamonds, and those I always carry about me.”
From what well-stitched diamond receptacle she had extracted the paper I did not suffer myself to conjecture, but the document was strongly perfumed with violet powder.
“You see, I was coming over,” she proceeded to explain, “in any event, and when Mr. D—— talked of sending Bunker—I think it was Bunker—with us, I persuaded him to let me be messenger instead. It wasn’t worth while, you know, to have any more people leave the office, you being away, and—Oh, Ada, my dear, here is Mr. Munro!”
As Ada, a slim, willowy creature, with the surprised look in her eyes that has become the fashion of late, came gliding up to me, I thought that the reason for young Bunker’s omission from the party was possibly before me.
Bother on her matrimonial, or rather anti-matrimonial, devices! Her maternal solicitude lest Ada should be charmed with the poor young clerk on the passage over had cost me weeks of longer stay. For at this stage a request for any further transfer would have been ridiculous and wrong. As easy to settle it now as to arrange for any one else; so the first of April found me still in London, but leaving it on the morrow for home.
“Bessie is in Lenox, I think,” Fanny Meyrick had said to me as I bade her good-bye.
“What! You have heard from her?”
“No, but I heard incidentally from one of my Boston friends this morning that he had seen her there, standing on the church steps.”
I winced, and a deeper glow came into Fanny’s cheek.
“You will give her my letter? I would have written to her also, but it was indeed only this morning that I heard. You will give her that?”
“I have kept it for her,” I said quietly; and the adieus were over.
Lenox again, and bluebirds darting to and fro among the maples. I had reached the hotel at midnight. Our train was late, detained on the road, and though my thoughts drove instantly to the Sloman cottage, I allowed the tardier coach-horses to set me down at the hotel. I had not telegraphed from New York. I would give her no chance to withhold herself from me, or to avoid me by running away. There was no time for her, as yet, to have read of the ship’s arrival. I would take her unawares.
So, after the bountiful Nora, who presides over the comfort of her favorites, had plied me with breakfast-cakes and milk and honey, I sauntered down toward the Lebanon road. Yes, sauntered, for I felt that a great crisis in my life was at hand, and at such times a wonderful calmness, almost to lethargy, possesses me. I went slowly up the hill. The church-clock was striking nine—calm, peaceful strokes. There was no tremor in them, no warning of what was coming. The air was very still, and I stopped a moment to watch the bluebirds before I turned into the Lebanon road.