But Nina knew better. Clouded as was her reason, she penetrated the mask he wore, and saw where the turbulent waters surged around him, while with an iron will and a brave heart he contended with the angry waves, and so outrode the storm. And as she watched them day after day, the purpose grew strong within her that if it were possible the marriage of Edith and Richard should be prevented, and as soon as she was able to talk she broached the subject to them both.
“Stay, Miggie,” she said to Edith, who was stealing from the room. “Hear me this once. You are together now, you and Arthur.”
“Nina,” said the latter, pitying Edith’s agitation, “You will spare us both much pain if you never allude again to what under other circumstances might have been.”
“But I must,” cried Nina. “Oh, Arthur, why won’t you go to Richard and tell him all about it?”
“Because it would be wrong,” was Arthur’s answer, and then Nina turned to Edith, “Why won’t you, Miggie?”
“Because I have solemnly promised that I would not,” was her reply.
And Nina rejoined, “Then I shall write. He loved little Snow Drop. He’ll heed what she says when she speaks from the grave. I’ll send him a letter.”
“Who’ll take it or read it to him if you do?” Arthur asked, and the troubled eyes of blue turned anxiously to Edith.
“Miggie, sister, won’t you?”
Edith shook her head, not very decidedly, it is true, still it was a negative shake, and Nina said, “Arthur boy, will you?”
“No, Nina, no.”
Hia answer was determined, and poor, discouraged Nina sobbed aloud, “Who will, who will?”
In the adjoining room there was a rustling sound—a coming footstep, and Victor Dupres appeared in the door. He had been an unwilling hearer of that conversation, and when Nina cried “who will?” he started up, and coming into the room as if by accident, advanced to the bedside and asked in his accustomed friendly way, “How is Nina to-night?” Then bending over her so that no one should hear, he whispered softly, “Don’t tell them, but I’ll read that letter to Richard!”
Nina understood him and held his hand a moment while she looked the thanks she dared not speak.
“Nina must not talk any more” Arthur said, as Victor walked away, “she is wearing out too fast,” and with motherly tenderness he smoothed her tumbled pillow—pushed back behind her ears the tangled curls—kissed her forehead, and then went out into the deepening night, whose cool damp air was soothing to his burning brow, and whose sheltering mantle would tell no tales of his white face or of the cry which came heaving up from where the turbulent waters lay, “if it be possible let this temptation pass from me, or give me strength to resist it.”
His prayer was heard—the turmoil ceased at last—the waters all were stilled, and Arthur went back to Nina, a calm, quiet man, ready and willing to meet whatever the future might bring.