Then Richard’s thoughts turned upon Arthur. He must talk with him, and he could not meet him there at Collingwood. There were too many curious eyes to see, too many ears to listen. At Grassy Spring they would be more retired, and thither he would go, that very night. He never should sleep again until he heard from Arthur’s own lips a confirmation of the cruel story. He could not ask Edith. Her voice would stir his heart-strings with a keener, deeper agony than he was enduring now. But to Arthur he could speak openly, and then too—Richard was loth to confess it, even to himself, but it was, never the less, true—Arthur, though a man, was gentler than Edith. He would be more careful, more tender, and while Edith might confirm the whole with one of her wild, impulsive outbursts, Arthur would reach the same point gradually and less painfully.
“Order the carriage, Victor,” he said, as it was growing dark in the room. “I am going to Grassy Spring,”
It was in vain that Victor attempted to persuade him to wait until the morrow. Richard was determined, and when Edith came from her scarcely tasted supper, she saw the carriage as it passed through the Collingwood grounds on its way to Grassy Spring, but little dreamed of what would be ere its occupant returned to them again.
The fiery test.
Arthur was not at home. From the first he had intended making Edith a bridal present—a life-sized portrait of Nina, which he knew she would value more than gifts of gold and silver. He had in his possession a daguerreotype taken when she was just eighteen, and sent to him by her father among other things, of which Charlie Hudson was the bearer. From this he would have a picture painted, employing the best artist in Boston, and it was upon this business that he left Grassy Spring the previous day, saying he should probably be home upon the next evening’s train.
Just before Richard arrived at Grassy Spring, however, a telegram had been received to the effect that Arthur was detained and would not return until midnight. This Phillis repeated to Richard, who for an instant stood thinking, and then said to Victor, “I shall stay. I cannot go back to Collingwood till I have talked with Arthur. But you may go, I would rather be left alone, and, Victor, you will undoubtedly think it a foolish fancy, but I must sleep in Nina’s room. There will be something soothing to me in a place so hallowed by her former presence. Ask old Phillis if I may. Tell her it is a whim, if you like, but get her consent at all hazards.”
Phillis’ consent was easily won, and after Victor was gone, Richard sat alone in the parlor until nearly eleven, when, feeling weary, he consented to retire, and Ike led him up the two flights of stairs into the Den, where he had never been before.
“I do not need your services,” he said to the negro, who departed, having first lighted the gas and turned it on to its fullest extent out of compliment to the blind man.