She had some thought, some consideration for him; she did not intend to desert him wholly, and he playfully tapped her chin, laughing to think how the little lady had boldly taken matters into her own hands, telling what should be with as much sang froid as if she were master instead of himself. And Richard rather liked the independent spirit of Edith, particularly when he found that he was not wholly left out of her calculations. And so he arranged with Mr. Russell, that if Nina were not better as the autumn advanced, Edith should perhaps go down to see her.
Arthur had made his marriage with Nina public as soon as he returned to Sunnybank, but as Mr. Russell’s home was in Tallahassee, and he himself a quiet, taciturn man, he had not heard of it, and in speaking of Nina to Edith, he called her Miss Bernard, as usual, and thus Richard still remained in ignorance, never suspecting that golden haired Nina was the same young girl he had married years before.
Poor Richard, he was ignorant of many things and never dreamed how light and gay was Edith’s heart at the prospect of going to Florida, even though she half expected that when she went it would be as his wife. But Richard determined it otherwise. It cost him a struggle so to do, but his iron will conquered every feeling, save those of his better judgment, and calling Edith to him one day two weeks after Mr. Russell’s departure, he said,
“Birdie, I’ve come to the conclusion that a blind man like me will only be in your way, in case you go to Florida. I am not an interesting traveling companion. I require too much care, and I dread the curious gaze of strangers. It makes me very uncomfortable. So on the whole I’d rather stay at home and let Victor go in my stead. What does Birdie say?”
“She says you are the noblest, most unselfish man that ever lived,” and Edith kissed his lips, chiding herself seriously for the spirit which whispered to her that she too would rather go without him. “I won’t stay very long,” she said. “Our wedding need not be deferred more than two months; say, till the first of January, at 7 o’clock, just as we before arranged it for October, only a more quiet affair, I shall then be your New Year’s gift. Does that suit you, dearest?”
She did not often call him thus, and when she did she was sure of accomplishing her purpose. The strong man melted beneath a few words of love, becoming a very tool in the hands of a weak girl.
“Yes, darling,” he replied, “that will do—but supposing we hear that Nina is better, or dead—what then?”
The mere possibility was terrible to Edith, but she answered calmly,
“Then we’ll be married in October, just as first proposed;” and thus was the die cast, and a fresh link added to the chain of Edith’s destiny. She was going to Florida; going to Arthur; and going alone, so far as Richard was concerned.
Spying Victor coming up the walk from the post-office, she ran out to meet him, telling him of the journey before him, and almost crying for joy when he placed in her hand a worn envelope bearing the post-mark of Tallahassee. It was from Arthur, and contained a few lines only, telling of Nina’s increasing illness, and her restless, impatient desire for Miggie. In conclusion he wrote,