Visitors at Collingwood and visitors at brier hill.
The morning came at last on which Arthur was expected, but as he did not appear, Grace gave him up until the morrow, and toward the middle of the afternoon ordered out her carriage, and drove slowly in the direction of Collingwood. Alighting before the broad piazza, and ascending the marble steps, she was asked by Richard’s confidential servant into the parlor, where she sat waiting anxiously while he went, in quest of his master.
“A lady, sir, wishes to see you in the parlor,” and Victor Dupres bowed low before Richard, awaiting his commands.
“A lady, Victor? Did she give her name?”
“Yes, sir; Atherton—Mrs. Grace Atherton, an old friend, she said,” Victor replied, marveling at the expression of his master’s face, which indicated anything but pleasure.
He had expected her—had rather anticipated her coming; but now that she was there, he shrank from the interview. It could only result in sorrow, for Grace was not to him now what she once had been. He could value her, perhaps, as a friend, but Edith’s tale had told him that he to her was more than a friend. Possibly this knowledge was not as distasteful to him as he fancied it to be; at all events, when he remembered it, he said to Victor:
“Is the lady handsome?” feeling a glow of satisfaction in the praises heaped upon the really beautiful Grace. Ere long the hard expression left his face, and straightening up his manly form, he bade Victor take him to her.
As they crossed the threshold of the door, he struck his foot against it, and instantly there rang in his ear the words which little Edith had said to him so pityingly, “Poor blind man!” while he felt again upon his brow the touch of those childish fingers; and this was why the dark, hard look came back. Edith Hastings rose up between him and the regal creature waiting so anxiously his coming, and who, when he came and stood before her, in his helplessness, wept like a child.
“Richard! oh, Richard! that it should be thus we meet again!” was all that she could say, as, seizing the groping hand, she covered it with her tears.
Victor had disappeared, and she could thus give free vent to her emotions, feeling it almost a relief that the eyes whose glance she once had loved to meet could not witness her grief.
“Grace,” he said at last, the tone of his voice was so cold that she involuntarily dropped his hands and looked him steadily in the face. “Grace, do not aggravate my misfortune by expressing too much sympathy. I am not as miserable as you may think, indeed, I am not as unhappy even now as yourself.”
“It’s true, Richard, true,” she replied, “and because I am unhappy I have come to ask your forgiveness if ever word or action, or taunt of mine caused you a moment’s pain. I have suffered much since we parted, and my suffering has atoned for all my sin.”