Noble, generous purposes give their impress to that index of character, the human face. When Martine came to say good-by to Helen, she saw the quiet, patient cripple in a new light. He no longer secured her strong affection chiefly on the basis of gentle, womanly commiseration. He was proving the possession of those qualities which appeal strongly to the feminine nature; he was showing himself capable of prompt, courageous action, and his plain face, revealing the spirit which animated him, became that of a hero in her eyes. She divined the truth—the love so strong and unselfish that it would sacrifice itself utterly for her. He was seeking to bring back her lover when success in his mission would blot out all hope for him. The effect of his action was most salutary, rousing her from the inertia of grief and despair. “If a mere friend,” she murmured, “can be so brave and self-forgetful, I have no excuse for giving away utterly.”
She revealed in some degree her new impressions in parting. “Hobart,” she said, holding his hand in both of hers, “you have done much to help me. You have not only brought hope, but you have also shown a spirit which would shame me out of a selfish grief. I cannot now forget the claims of others, of my dear father and mother here, and I promise you that I will try to be brave like you, like Albert. I shall not become a weak, helpless burden, I shall not sit still and wring idle hands when others are heroically doing and suffering. Good-by, my friend, my brother. God help us all!”
He felt that she understood him now as never before; and the knowledge inspired a more resolute purpose, if this were possible. That afternoon he was on his way. There came two or three days of terrible suspense for Helen, relieved only by telegrams from Martine as he passed from point to point. The poor girl struggled as a swimmer breasts pitiless waves intervening between him and the shore. She scarcely allowed herself an idle moment; but her effort was feverish and in a measure the result of excitement. The papers were searched for any scrap of intelligence, and the daily mail waited for until the hours and minutes were counted before its arrival.
One morning her father placed Nichol’s letter in her hands. They so trembled in the immense hope, the overwhelming emotion which swept over her at sight of the familiar handwriting, that at first she could not open it. When at last she read the prophetic message, she almost blotted out the writing with her tears, moaning, “He’s dead, he’s dead!” In her morbid, overwrought condition, the foreboding that had been in the mind of the writer was conveyed to hers; and she practically gave up hope for anything better than the discovery and return of his remains. Her father, mother, and intimate friends tried in vain to rally her; but the conviction remained that she had read her lover’s farewell words. In spite of the most pathetic and strenuous effort, she could not keep up any longer, and sobbed till she slept in utter exhaustion.