On the sofa lay Hartley, with his face toward the light. It was wan and troubled, and the brows were contracted as if from intense pain. For some moments Irene stood looking at him; but his eyes were shut and he lay perfectly still. She drew nearer and bent down over him. He was sleeping, but his breath came so faintly, and there was so little motion of his chest, that the thought flashed through her with an electric thrill that he might be dying! Only by a strong effort of self-control did she repress a cry of fear, or keep back her hands from clasping his neck. In what a strong tide did love rush back upon her soul! Her heart overflowed with tenderness, was oppressed with yearning.
“Oh, Hartley, my husband, my dear husband!” she cried out, love, fear, grief and anguish blending wildly in her voice, as she caught him in her arms and awoke him with a rain of tears and kisses.
“Irene! Love! Darling! What ails you? Where are we?” were the confusedly uttered sentences of Mr. Emerson, as he started from the sofa and, holding his young wife from him, looked into her weeping face.
“Call me again ‘love’ and ‘darling,’ and I care not where we are!” she answered, in tones of passionate entreaty. “Oh, Hartley, my dear, dear husband! A desert island, with you, would be a paradise; a paradise, without you, a weary desert! Say the words again. Call me ‘darling!’” And she let her head fall upon his bosom.
“God bless you!” he said, laying his hand upon her head. He was awake and clearly conscious of place and position. His voice was distinct, but tremulous and solemn. “God bless you, Irene, my wife!”
“And make me worthy of your love,” she responded faintly.
“Mutually worthy of each other,” said he. “Wiser—better—more patient and forbearing. Oh, Irene,” and his voice grew deep and tender, “why may we not be to each other all that our hearts desire?”
“We can—we must—we will!” she answered, lifting her hidden face from his bosom and turning it up fondly to his. “God helping me, I will be to you a better wife in the future.”
“And I a more patient, loving, and forbearing husband,” he replied. “Oh that our hearts might beat together as one heart!”
For a little while Irene continued to gaze into her husband’s countenance with looks of the tenderest love, and then hid her face on his bosom again.
And thus were they again reconciled.
AFTER THE STORM.
AFTER the storm. And they were reconciled. The clouds rolled back; the sun came out again with his radiant smiles and genial warmth. But was nothing broken? nothing lost? Did each flower in the garden of love lift its head as bravely as before? In every storm of passion something is lost. Anger is a blind fury, who tramples ruthlessly on tenderest and holiest things. Alas for the ruin that waits upon her footsteps!