The words were very cold, but to Edith they contained a world of meaning. She knew she was beloved by Arthur St. Claire. Dr. Griswold had told her so. Grace had told her so. Nina had told her so, while more than all his manner had told her so repeatedly, and now he would tell her so himself and had chosen a time when Richard and Victor were both in Boston, as the one best adapted to the interview. Edith was like all other maidens of eighteen, and her girlish heart fluttered with joy as she thought what her answer would be, but not at first,—not at once, lest she seem too anxious. She’d make him wait a whole week, then see how he felt. He deserved it all for his weak vacillation. If he loved her why hadn’t he told her before! She didn’t believe there was such a terrible impediment in the way. Probably he had sworn never to marry any one save Nina, but her insanity was certainly a sufficient reason for his not keeping the oath. Dr. Griswold was peculiar,—over-nice in some points, and Arthur had been wholly under his control, becoming morbidly sensitive to the past, and magnifying every trivial circumstance into a mountain too great to be moved.
This was Edith’s reasoning as she sat waiting that October afternoon for Arthur, who came ere long, looking happier, more like himself than she had seen him since the memorable day when she first met Nina. Arthur had determined to do right, to tell without reserve the whole of his past history to Edith Hastings, and the moment he reached this decision half his burden was lifted from his mind. It cost him a bitter struggle thus to decide, and lest his courage should give way, he had asked for an early interview. It was granted, and without giving himself time to repent he came at once and stood before the woman who was dearer to him than his life. Gladly would he have died could he thus have blotted out the past and made Edith his wife, but he could not, and he had come to tell her so.
Never had she been more beautiful than she was that afternoon. Her dress of crimson merino contrasted well with her clear dark complexion. Her magnificent hair, arranged with far more care than usual, was wound in many a heavy braid around her head, while, half-hidden amid the silken bands, and drooping gracefully behind one ear, was a single white rose-bud, mingled with scarlet blossoms of verbena; the effect adding greatly to her beauty. Excitement lent a brighter sparkle to her brilliant eyes, and a richer bloom to her glowing cheeks, and thus she sat waiting for Arthur St. Claire, who felt his heart grow cold and faint as he looked upon her, and knew her charms were not for him. She detected his agitation, and as a kitten plays with a captured mouse, torturing it almost to madness, so she played with him ere suffering him to reach the point. Rapidly she went from one subject to another, dragging him with her whether he would or not, until at last as if suddenly remembering herself, she turned her shining eyes upon him, and said, “I have talked myself out, and will now give you a chance. You wrote that you wished to see me.”