But as she stood with her cold hand in his warm one, he forestalled her by exhibiting, not without a certain boyish pride, the marriage license and the plain gold band which was to bind her. If these familiar and rather commonplace objects had been endowed with some evil magic, they could not have deprived her of the power of speech more effectively.
Without a protest, she permitted herself to be led to the waiting carriage, provided in honor of the occasion. It seemed but a moment later that she found herself being warmly embraced by a motherly looking woman, who, it transpired, was the wife of the clergyman who had just performed the ceremony.
From the parsonage they drove directly to the station.
The journey had seemed endless: it was already nightfall when they arrived at the town of Prentice, where they were to get off and drive some twelve miles farther to her new home. And yet, endless and unspeakably wearying as it was, her heart contracted to find that it was at an end.
She realized now how comfortable, even luxurious, her trip across the Continent had been by comparison. Then, she had traveled in a Pullman. This, she learned, was called a day-coach. Her husband did everything in his power to mitigate the rigors of the trip. He made a pillow for her with his coat, bought her fruits, candies and magazines from the train-boy, until she protested. Best of all, he divined and respected her disinclination for conversation. At intervals during the day he left her to go into the smoking-car to enjoy his pipe.
The view from the window was, on the whole, rather monotonous. But it would have had to be varied indeed to match the mental pictures that Nora’s flying thoughts conjured up for her.
The dead level of her life at Tunbridge Wells had been a curious preparation for the violent changes of the last few months. How often when walking in the old-world garden with Miss Wickham she had had the sensation of stifling, oppressed by those vine-covered walls, and inwardly had likened herself to a prisoner. There were no walls now to confine her. Clear away to the sunset it was open. And yet she was more of a prisoner than she had ever been. And now she wore a fetter, albeit of gold, on her hand.
It had been her habit to think of herself with pity as friendless in those days; forgetful of the good doctor and his wife, Agnes Pringle and even Mr. Wynne, not to speak of her humbler friends, the gardener’s wife and children, and the good Kate. Well, she was being punished for it now. It would be hard, indeed, to imagine a more friendless condition than hers. Rushing onward, farther and farther into the wilderness to make for herself a home miles from any human habitation; no woman, in all probability, to turn to in case of need. And, crowning loneliness, having ever at her side a man with whom she had been on terms of open enmity up to a few short hours before!