“Yes” he said at last, resting his chin upon her bowed head, “I am satisfied, and never since my rememberance, has there come to Richard Harrington a moment so fraught with bliss as this in which I hold you in my arms and know I hold my wife, my darling wife, sweetest name ever breathed by human tongue—and Edith, if you must sicken of me, do it now—to-night. Don’t put it off, for every fleeting moment binds me to you with an added tie, which makes it harder to lose you.”
“Richard,” and, lifting up her head, Edith looked into the eyes she could not meet before, “I swear to you, solemnly, that never, by word or deed, will I seek to be released from our engagement, and if I am released, it will be because you give me up of your own free will. You will be the one to break it, not I.”
“Then it will not be broken,” came in a quick response from Richard, as he held closer to him one whom he now felt to be his forever.
The lamps upon the table, and the candles on the mantel flashed and smoked, and almost died away—the fire on the marble hearth gave one or two expiring gasps and then went out—the hands of the clock moved onward, pointing to long after midnight, and still Richard, loth to let his treasure go, kept her with him, talking to her of his great happiness, and asking if early June would be too soon for her to be his bride.
“Yes, yes, much too soon,” cried Edith. “Give me the whole summer in which to be free. I’ve never been any where you know. I want to see the world. Let’s go to Saratoga, and to all those places I’ve heard so much about. Then, in the autumn, we’ll have a famous wedding at Collingwood, and I will settle down into the most demure, obedient of wives.”
Were it not that the same roof sheltered them both, Richard would have acceded to this delay, but when he reflected that he should not be parted from Edith any more than if they were really married, he consented, stipulating that the wedding should take place on the anniversary of the day when she first came to him with flowers, and called him “poor blind man.”
“You did not think you’d ever be the poor blind man’s wife,” he said, asking her, playfully, if she were not sorry even now.
“No,” she answered. Nor was she. In fact, she scarcely felt at all. Her heart was palsied, and lay in her bosom like a block of stone—heavy, numb, and sluggish in its beat.
Of one thing, only, was she conscious, and that a sense of weariness—a strong desire to be alone, up stairs, where she was not obliged to answer questions, or listen to loving words, of which she was so unworthy. She was deceiving Richard, who, when his quick ear caught her smothered yawn, as the little clock struck one, bade her leave him, chiding himself for keeping her so long from the rest he knew she needed.
“For me, I shall never know fatigue or pain again,” he said, as he led her to the door, “but my singing-bird is different—she must sleep. God bless you, darling. You have made the blind man very happy.”