“I’ll make amends though, now,” she said, and remembering the story of his disappointment, her heart swelled with a fresh feeling of pity for the helpless Richard, who, sitting before the blazing fire in the library, did not hear the light step coming so softly toward him.
All the way from the station, and indeed all the way from New York, he had pictured to himself Edith’s sylph-like form running down the steps to meet him; had felt her warm hands in his, heard her sweet voice welcoming him home again, and the world around him was filled with daylight, but Edith was the sun which shone upon his darkness. She was dearer to him now, if possible, than when he left Collingwood, for, during his absence he had learned that which, if she knew it, would bind her to him by cords of gratitude too strong to be lightly broken. She owed everything to him, and he, alas, he groaned when he thought what he owed to her, but he loved her all the same, and this it was which added to the keenness of his disappointment when among the many feet which hastened out to meet him, he listened for hers in vain. He knew it was very pleasant in his little library whither Victor led him; very pleasant to sit in his accustomed chair, and feel the fire-light shining on his face, but there was something missing, and the blue veins were swelling on his forehead, and the lines deepening about his mouth, when a pair of soft, white arms were wound about his neck, two soft white hands patted his bearded cheeks, and a voice, whose every tone made his heart throb and beat with ecstasy, murmured in his ear,
“Dear Mr. Richard, I am so glad you’ve come home, and so sorry I was not here to meet you. I did not expect you to-night. Forgive me, won’t you? There, let me smooth the ugly wrinkles away, they make you look so cross and old,” and the little fingers he vainly tried to clasp, wandered caressingly over the knit brows, while, for the first time since people began to call her Miss Hastings, Edith’s lips touched his.
Nor was she sorry when she saw how beautiful the lovelight broke all over the dark, stern face, irradiating every feature, and giving to it an expression almost divine.
“Kiss me again, Birdie,” he said. “It is not often you grant me such a treat,” and he held her arms about his neck until she pressed her lips once more against his own.
Then he released her, and making her sit down beside him, rested his hand upon her shining hair, while he asked her how she had busied herself in his absence, if she had missed the old dark cloud, a bit, and if she was not sorry to have him back.
He know just what her answer would be, and when it was given, he took her face between his hands, and turning it up toward him, said, “I’d give all Collingwood, darling, just to look once into your eyes and see if—–” then, apparently changing his mind, he added, “see if you are pleased with what I’ve brought you, look;” and taking from his pocket a square box he displayed to her view an entire set of beautiful pearls. “I wanted to buy diamonds, but Victor said pearls were more appropriate for a young girl like you. Are they becoming?” and he placed some of them amid the braids of her dark hair.