But she would conquer such feelings—she would be his wife, and drying her eyes she said, “I can give you my decision now as well as at any other time, but if you prefer it, I will wait four weeks and then bring you the same answer I make you now—I will be your wife.”
“I dare not hope it,” returned Richard, “You will change your mind, I fear, but, Edith, if you do not,—if you promise to be mine, don’t forsake me afterwards, for I should surely die,” and as if he already felt the agony it would cost him to give his darling up after he had once possessed her, he clasped his hands upon his heart, which throbbed so rapidly that Edith heard its muffled beat and saw its rise and fall. “I could not lose you and still live on without you, Edith,” and he spoke impetuously, “You won’t desert me, if you promise once.”
“Never, never,” she answered, and with a good night kiss upon his lips she went out from the presence of the man she already looked upon as her future husband, breathing freer when she stood within the hall where he was not, and freer still when in her own chamber there was a greater distance between them.
Alas, for Edith, and a thousand times alas, for poor, poor Richard!
Not for one moment did Edith waver in her purpose, and lest Richard should suspect what he could not see, she affected a gayety in his presence sadly at variance with her real feelings. Never had her merry laugh rang out so frequently before him—never had her wit been one half so sparkling, and when he passed his hands over her flushed cheek, feeling how hot it was, he said to himself, “The roses are coming back, she cannot be unhappy,” and every line and lineament of the blind man’s face glowed with the new-born joy springing up within his heart, and making the world around him one grand jubilee.
Victor was quick to note the change in his master, and without the least suspicion of the truth, he once asked Edith, “What made Mr. Harrington so young and almost boyish, acting as men were supposed to act when they were just engaged?”
“Victor,” said Edith, after a moment’s reflection, “can you keep a secret?”
“Certainly,” he replied. “What is it, pray? Is Mr. Harrington matrimonially inclined?”
Edith’s heart yearned for sympathy—for some one to sustain her— to keep her from fainting by the wayside, and as she could not confide in Grace, Victor was her only remaining refuge. He had been the repositary of all her childish secrets, entering into her feelings as readily and even more demonstratively than any female friend could have done. Richard would tell him, of course, as soon as it was settled, and as she knew now that it was settled, why not speak first and so save him the trouble. Thus deciding, she replied to his question,
“Yes, Richard is going to be married; but you must not let him know I told you, till the engagement is made public.”