The Deering woods.
Edith had been in a state of feverish excitement all the day, so happy had she been made by the certainty that Arthur loved her. She had not doubted it before, but having it told her in so many words was delightful, and she could scarcely wait for the hour when she was to hear the continuation of a story abruptly terminated by the return of Richard. Poor Richard! He was sitting in his library now, looking so lonely, when on her way through the hall she glanced in at him, that she almost cried to think how desolate he would be when she was gone.
“I’ll coax Arthur to come here and live,” she said to herself, thinking how nice it would be to have Arthur and Nina and Richard all in one house.
The hands of her watch were pointing to three, as, stepping out upon the piazza she passed hurriedly through the grounds and turned in the direction of the Deering Woods. Onward, onward, over the hill and across the fields she flew, until the woods were reached—the silent, leafless woods, where not a sound was heard save the occasional dropping of a nut, the rustle of a leaf, or the ripple of the mill-brook falling over the stones. The warm sun had dried the withered grass, and she sat down beneath a forest tree, watching, waiting, wondering, and trembling violently at last as in the distance she heard the cracking of the brittle twigs and fancied he was coming.
“I’ll pretend I don’t hear him,” she said, and humming a simple air she was industriously pulling the bark from the tree when Nina stood before her, exclaiming,
“You are here just as Arthur said you’d be. The woods were so still and smoky that I was most afraid.”
Ordinarily Edith would have been delighted at this meeting, but now she could not forbear wishing Nina away, and she said to her somewhat sternly,
“What made you come?”
“He sent me,” and Nina crouched down at Edith’s feet, like a frightened spaniel. “Arthur is coming, too, and going to do right. He said he was, bending right over me last night, and when I woke this morning there was a great tear on my face. ’Twasn’t mine, Miggie. It was too big for that. It was Arthur’s.”
“How came he in your room?” Edith asked, a little sharply, and Nina replied,
“I was in the library. We both staid there all night. It wasn’t in my room, though Arthur has a right, Miggie. It never was scratched out!”
Edith was puzzled, and was about to question Nina as to her meaning, when another step was heard, a manly, heavy tread, precluding all possibility of a mistake this time. Arthur St. Claire had come!
“It’s quite pleasant since yesterday,” he said, trying to force a smile, but it was a sickly effort, and only made more ghastly and wan his pallid features, over which ages seemed to have passed since the previous day, leaving them scarred, and battered, and worn.