“Yes, Hobart, in my wish to make you happier I am not bent on unredeemed self-sacrifice. You have been the most skilful of wooers.”
“And you are the divinest of mysteries. How have I wooed you?”
“By not wooing at all, by taking a course which compelled my heart to plead your cause, by giving unselfish devotion so unstintedly that like the rain and dew of heaven, it has fostered a new life in my heart, different from the old, yet sweet, real, and precious. I have learned that I can be happier in making you happy. Oh, I shall be no martyr. Am I inconstant because time and your ministry have healed the old wound—because the steady warmth and glow of your love has kindled mine?”
He regarded her with a gaze so rapt, so reverent, so expressive of immeasurable gratitude that her eyes filled with tears. “I think you do understand me,” she whispered.
He kissed her hand in homage as he replied, “A joy like this is almost as hard to comprehend at first as an equally great sorrow. My garden teaches me to understand you. A perfect flower-stalk is suddenly and rudely broken. Instead of dying, it eventually sends out a little side-shoot which gives what bloom it can.”
“And you will be content with what it can give?”
“I shall be glad with a happiness which almost terrifies me. Only God knows how I have longed for this.”
That evening the old banker scarcely ceased rubbing his hands in general felicitation, while practical, housewifely Mrs. Kemble already began to plan what she intended to do toward establishing Helen in the adjoining cottage.
Now that Martine believed his great happiness possible, he was eager for its consummation. At his request the 1st of December was named as the wedding day. “The best that a fireside and evening lamp ever suggested will then come true to me,” ha urged. “Since this can be, life is too short that it should not be soon.”
Helen readily yielded. Indeed, they were all so absorbed in planning for his happiness as to be oblivious of the rising storm. When at last the girl went to her room, the wind sighed and wailed so mournfully around the house as to produce a feeling of depression and foreboding.
The wild night storm which followed the most memorable day of his life had no power to depress Martine. In the wavy flames and glowing coals of his open fire he saw heavenly pictures of the future. He drew his mother’s low chair to the hearth, and his kindled fancy placed Helen in it. Memory could so reproduce her lovely and familiar features that her presence became almost a reality. In a sense he watched her changing expression and heard her low, mellow tones. The truth that both would express an affection akin to his own grew upon his consciousness like the incoming of a sun-lighted tide. The darkness and storm without became only the background of his pictures, enhancing every prophetic representation. The night passed in ecstatic waking dreams of all that the word “home” suggests when a woman, loved as he loved Helen, was its architect.