Then he told me how, over my letters to him in New South Wales, there had come out Dermot’s account of the early liking that everyone nipped, till my good-girlish submission wounded and affronted him, and he forgot or disliked me for years; how old feelings had revived, when we came in contact once more; but how he was withheld from their manifestation, by the miserable state of his affairs, as well as by my own coldness and indifference.
I made some sound which made Harold say, “You told me to keep him away.”
“I knew I ought,” I remember saying faintly.
“Oh—h—!” a prolonged sound, that began a little triumphantly, but ended in a sigh, and then he earnestly said, “You do not think you ought to discourage him now? Your mother did not forbid it for ever.”
“Oh no, no; it never came to that.”
“And you know what he is now?”
“I know he is changed,” was all I could say.
“And you will help him forward a little when he comes back. You and he will be happy.”
There might be a great surging wave of joy in my heart, but it would not let me say anything but, “And leave you alone, Harold?”
“I must learn to be alone,” he said. “I can stay here this winter, and see to the things in hand, and then I suppose something will turn up.”
“As a call?” I said.
“Yes,” he answered. “I told God to-day that I had nothing to do but His service, and I suppose He will find it for me.”
There was something in the steadfast, yet wistful look of his eyes, that made me take down the legend of St. Christopher and read it aloud. Reading generally sent him into a doze, but even that would be a respite to the heartache he so patiently bore, and I took the chance, but he sat with his chin on his hand and his eyes fixed attentively on mine all the time, then held out his hand for the book, and pondered, as was his thorough way in such matters. At last he said, “Well, I’ll wait by the stream. Some day He will send me some one to carry over.”
We little thought what stream was very near!
Tuesday morning brought a strange little untidy packet, tied with blue ribbon, understamped, and directed to Harold Alison, Esquire, in the worst form of poor Dora’s always bad handwriting. Within was a single knitted muffatee, and a long lock of the stiffly curling yellow hair peculiar to Dora’s head. In blotted, sloping roundhand was written:—
“My Dear Harry,—
“Good-bye, I do fele so very ill, I can’t do any more. Don’t forget I allwaies was your wiffe.
“I am your affex., D. A.”
We looked at each other in wonder and dismay, sure that the child must be very ill, and indignant that we had not been told. Harold talked of going up to town to find out; I was rather for going, or sending, to Therford for tidings, and all the time, alas! alas! he was smoothing and caressing the yellow tress between his fingers, pitying the child and fancying she was being moped to death in the school-room.