“We have had no fever this summer. You will be perfectly safe in coming any time after the middle of October. I shall welcome Mr. Harrington most cordially if he sees fit to accompany you.”
Edith could read this to Richard, and she did, feeling a pang at the perfect faith with which he answered,
“Were it not for the tedious journey I believe I would go with you, but it’s too much of an undertaking. I won’t trammel you with so great a burden. I’d rather stay at home and anticipate my darling’s return.”
Then with the same forethought and careful consideration which marked all his actions, Richard consulted with her as to the beat time for her to start, fixing upon the 15th of October, and making all his arrangements subservient to this. He did not tell her how lonely he should be without her—how he should miss her merry laugh, which, strange to say, grew merrier each day; but he let her know in various ways how infinitely precious she was to him, and more than once Edith felt constrained to give up the journey, but the influences from Florida drew her strangely in that direction, and revolving to pay Richard for his self-denial by an increase of love when she should return, she busied herself with her preparations until the 15th of October came, and her trunks stood ready in the hall.
“If I could only read your letters myself, it would not seem one-half so bad,” Richard said, when at the last moment, he held Edith’s hand, “but there’s a shadow over me this morning—a dark presentiment that in suffering you to leave me I am losing you forever.”
Edith could not answer, she pitied him so much, and kissing his lips, she put from her neck his clinging arms, wiped his tears away, smoothed his ruffled hair, and then went out from his presence, leaving him there in his sorrow and blindness alone.
“Berry soon, Miss, an’ we’re thar. We turns the corner yonder, we drives ‘cross the plain, down a hill, up anoder, an’ then we’s mighty nigh a mile from the spot.”
Such was the answer made by Tom, the Bernard coachman to Edith’s repeated inquiries, “Are we almost there.”
For three successive days the Bernard carriage had been to Tallahassee in quest of the expected guest, whose coming was watched for so eagerly at Sunnybank, and who, as the bright October afternoon was drawing to its close, looked eagerly out at a huge old house which stood not very far distant with the setting sun shining on the roof and illuminating all the upper windows. A nearer approach showed it to be a large, square, wooden building, divided in the centre by a wide, airy hall, and surrounded on three sides by a verandah, the whole bearing a more modern look than most of the country houses in Florida, for Mr. Bernard had possessed considerable taste, and during his life had aimed at fitting up his residence somewhat after the northern fashion. To Edith there was something familiar about that old building, with its handsome grounds, and she said aloud,