“Yes,” she would murmur softly to herself, “Albert was right; the bloody war has ceased, and the happy days of peace are coming. Heaven has blessed him and made his memory doubly blessed, in that he had the heart to wish them to be happy, although he could not live to see them. Unconsciously he took the thorns out of the path which led to his friend and mine. How richly father enjoys Hobart’s companionship! He will be scarcely less happy—when he knows—than yonder friend, who is such a very scrupulous friend. Indeed, how either is ever going to know I scarcely see, unless I make a formal statement.”
Suddenly Martine turned, and caught sight of her expression.
“All I have for your thoughts! What wouldn’t I give to know them!”
Her face became rosier than the firelight warranted as she laughed outright and shook her head.
“No matter,” he said; “I am content to hear you laugh like that.”
“Yes, yes,” added the banker; “Helen’s laugh is sweeter to me than any music I ever heard. Thank God! we all can laugh again. I am getting old, and in the course of nature must soon jog on to the better country. When that time comes, the only music I want to hear from earth is good, honest laughter.”
“Now, papa, hush that talk right away,” cried Helen, with glistening eyes.
“What’s the matter?” Mrs. Kemble asked, waking up.
“Nothing, my dear, only it’s time for us old people to go to bed.”
“Well, I own that it would be more becoming to sleep there than to reflect so unfavorably on your conversation. Of late years talk about money matters always puts me to sleep.”
“That wasn’t the case, was it, my dear, when we tried to stretch a thousand so it would reach from one January to another?”
“I remember,” she replied, smiling and rolling up her knitting, “that we sometimes had to suspend specie payments. Ah, well, we were happy.”
When left alone, it was Helen’s turn to say, “Now your thoughts are wool-gathering. You don’t see the fire when you look at it that way.”
“No, I suppose not,” replied Martine. “I’ll be more frank than you. Your mother’s words, ‘We were happy,’ left an echo in my mind. How experience varies! It is pleasant to think that there are many perfectly normal, happy lives like those of your father and mother.”