She had an inexplicable moment when she stood before her lover in the room where they left her to meet him alone. She faltered and he waited constrained by her constraint.
“Is it all a mistake, Clementina?” he asked, with a piteous smile.
“Am I so much changed?”
“No; you are looking better than I expected.”
“And you are not sorry-for anything?”
“No, I am—Perhaps I have thought of you too much! It seems so strange.”
“I understand,” he answered. “We have been like spirits to each other, and now we find that we are alive and on the earth like other people; and we are not used to it.”
“It must be something like that.”
“But if it’s something else—if you have the least regret,—if you would rather”—He stopped, and they remained looking at each other a moment. Then she turned her head, and glanced out of the window, as if something there had caught her sight.
“It’s a very pleasant view, isn’t it?” she said; and she lifted her hands to her head, and took off her hat, with an effect of having got home after absence, to stay.
It was possibly through some sense finer than any cognition that Clementina felt in meeting her lover that she had taken up a new burden rather than laid down an old one. Afterwards, when they once recurred to that meeting, and she tried to explain for him the hesitation which she had not been able to hide, she could only say, “I presume I didn’t want to begin unless I was sure I could carry out. It would have been silly.”
Her confession, if it was a confession, was made when one of his returns to health, or rather one of the arrests of his unhealth, flushed them with hope and courage; but before that first meeting was ended she knew that he had overtasked his strength, in coming to New York, and he must not try it further. “Fatha,” she said to Claxon, with the authority of a woman doing her duty, “I’m not going to let Geo’ge go up to Middlemount, with all the excitement. It will be as much as he can do to get home. You can tell mother about it; and the rest. I did suppose it would be Mr. Richling that would marry us, and I always wanted him to, but I guess somebody else can do it as well.”
“Just as you say, Clem,” her father assented. “Why not Brother Osson, he’a?” he suggested with a pleasure in the joke, whatever it was, that the minister’s relation to Clementina involved. “I guess he can put off his visit to Boston long enough.”
“Well, I was thinking of him,” said Clementina. “Will you ask him?”
“Yes. I’ll get round to it, in the mohning.”
“No-now; right away. I’ve been talking with Geo’ge about it; and the’e’s no sense in putting it off. I ought to begin taking care of him at once.”
“Well, I guess when I tell your motha how you’re layin’ hold, she won’t think it’s the same pusson,” said her father, proudly.