Her servant brought in a letter; it was a Christmas card, in an envelope without a direction, from Aksel Aaroe—one of the usual Christmas cards, representing a number of young people in snow-shoes. Below was printed:
Has roses red.
On the other side, in a clear round hand, “In the woods to-day I could not but think of you. A. A..” That was all.
“That is like him, he says nothing more. When he passes a shop-window in which he sees such a card, he thinks of me; and not only does he think of me but he sends me his thoughts.” Or was she mistaken. Ella was diffident; surely this could not be misconstrued. The Christmas card—was it not a harbinger? The two young couples on it and the words—surely he meant something by that. His enraptured eyes again rose before her; they seemed not only to envelop her, but to caress her. She thought neither of past nor future; she lived only in the present. She lay wide awake that night looking at the moonlight. Now, now, now, was whispered. Had she but clung to the dream of her life, even when the reality had seemed so cruel, she would have held her own; because she had been uncertain about it, all had become uncertain. But the greater the suffering had been, the greater, perhaps, would be the bliss. She fell asleep in the soft white light, which she took with her into her dreams. She woke among light, bright clouds, which gathered round the glittering thought of what might be awaiting her to-day. He had not said a word. This bashfulness was what she loved the best of anything in him. It was just that which was the surest pledge. It would be to-day.
She took a long time over her bath, an almost longer time in doing her hair; out of the chest of drawers, which she had used as a child, and which still stood in its old place—out of its lowest drawer she took her finest underlinen. She had never worn it but once—on her wedding-day—before the desecration, never since. But to-day—Now, now, now! Not one garment which she put on had ever been touched by any one but herself. She wished to be what she had been in her dreams.
She went to the children, who were awake but not dressed.