“Poor Arthur,” he said, “I know what is in your mind and pity you so much, but you can resist temptation and you must. There’s no alternative. You chose your destiny years ago—abide by it, then. Hope and pray, as I do, that Edith Hastings will be the blind man’s bride.”
“Oh, Griswold,” and Arthur groaned aloud, “you cannot wish to sacrifice her thus!”
“I can—I do—it will save you both from ruin.”
“Then you think—you do think she loves me,” and Arthur looked eagerly at his friend, who answered, “I think nothing, save that she will marry Mr. Harrington. Your cousin told me there was a rumor to that effect. She is often at Collingwood, and ought to be posted.”
“Griswold, I wish I were dead,” exclaimed Arthur. “Yes, I wish I were dead, and were it not that I dread the hereafter, I would end my existence at once in yonder river,” and he pointed to the Chicopee, winding its slow way to the westward.
Dr. Griswold gazed at him a moment in silence, and then replied somewhat sternly, “Rather be a man and wait patiently for the future.”
“I would, but for the fear that Edith will be lost to me forever,” Arthur answered faintly, and Dr. Griswold replied, “Better so than lost herself. Why not be candid with her; tell her everything; go over the entire past, and if she truly loves you, she will wait, years and years if need be. She’s young yet, too young to be a wife. Will you tell her?”
“I can’t, I can’t,” and Arthur shook his head despairingly. “I have hidden the secret too long to tell it now. It might have been easy at first, but now—it’s too late. Oh, Griswold, you do not understand what I suffer, for you never knew what it was to love as I love Edith Hastings.” For a moment Dr. Griswold looked at him in silence. He knew how fierce a storm had gathered round him, and how bravely he had met it. He knew, too, how impetuous and ardent was his disposition, how much one of his temperament must love Edith Hastings, and he longed to speak to him a word of comfort. Smoothing the brown hair of the bowed head, and sighing to see how many threads of silver were woven in it, he said,
“I pity you so much, and can feel for you more than you suspect. You say I know not what it is to love. Oh, Arthur, Arthur. You little guessed what it cost me, years ago, to give up Nina Bernard. It almost broke my heart, and the wound is bleeding yet! Could the past be undone; could we stand where we did that night which both remember so well, I would hold you back; and Nina, crazy as she is, should this moment be mine—mine to love, to cherish, to care for and weep over when she is dead. Poor little unfortunate Nina—my darling—my idol—my clipped-wing bird!”
It was Dr. Griswold’s voice which trembled now, and Arthur’s which essayed to comfort him.
“I never dreamed of this,” he said. “I knew you, with others, had a liking for her, but you relinquished her so willingly, I could not guess you loved her so well,” and in his efforts to soothe his friend, Arthur forgot his own sorrow in part.