Helen had risen as she spoke, and she spread out her arms and flung back her head and drank in a deep breath of joy. She began singing, half to herself; and then as that brought a sudden idea into her mind she ran to the window and shut it quickly. “I will sing you my hymn!” she laughed, “that is the way to be happy!”
And she went to the piano; in a minute more she had begun the chorus she had sung to Arthur, “Hail thee Joy, from Heaven descending!” The flood of emotion that was pent up within her poured itself out in the wild torrent of music, and Helen seemed happy enough to make up for all the weeks of suffering. As she swept herself on she proved what she had said,—that she would go mad if she thought much about her release; and Mr. Howard and her father sat gazing at her in wonder. When she stopped she was quite exhausted and quite dazed, and came and buried her head in her father’s arms, and sat waiting until the heaving of her bosom had subsided, and she was calm once more,—in the meantime murmuring faintly to herself again and again that she was happy and that she was free.
When she looked up and brushed away her tangled hair again, perhaps she thought that her conduct was not very conventional, for she begged Mr. Howard’s pardon once more, promising to be more orderly by and by. Then she added, laughing, “It is good that you should see me happy, though, because I have always troubled you with my egotisms before.” She went on talking merrily, until suddenly she sprang up and said, “I shall have to sing again if I do not run away, so I am going upstairs to make myself look respectable!” And with that she danced out of the room, waking the echoes of the house with her caroling:
“Merrily, merrily, shall I live
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough!”
Lus-tig im Leid, sing’ich von Lieb-e!
“Some one whom I can court
With no great change of manner,
Still holding reason’s fort,
Tho waving fancy’s banner.”
Several weeks had passed since Helen had received the letter from Arthur, the girl having in the meantime settled quietly down at Oakdale She had seen few of her friends excepting Mr. Howard, who had come out often from the city.
She was expecting a visit from him one bright afternoon, and was standing by one of the pillars of the vine-covered porch, gazing up at the blue sky above her and waiting to hear the whistle of the train. When she saw her friend from the distance she waved her hand to him and went to meet him, laughing, “I am going to take you out to see my stream and my bobolink to-day. You have not seen our country yet, you know.”
The girl seemed to Mr. Howard more beautiful that afternoon than he had ever known her before, for she was dressed all in white and there was the old spring in her step, and the old joy in her heart. When they had passed out of the village, she found the sky so very blue, and the clouds so very white, and the woods and meadows so very green, that she was radiantly happy and feared that she would have to sing. And she laughed: