“It has been so unfortunate!” complained Mrs. Kemble. “If it had only happened a little earlier, or a little later! To have all one’s preparations upset and one’s plans frustrated is exasperating. Were it not for that journey, Helen would have been married by this time. People come ostensibly to express sympathy, but in reality to ask questions.”
“I don’t care about people,” said Helen, “but the day has been so different from what we expected that it’s hard not to yield to a presentiment of trouble. It is so dark and gloomy that we almost need a lamp at midday.”
“Well, well,” cried hearty Mr. Kemble, “I’m not going to cross any bridges till I come to them. That telegram from Hobart is all we need, to date. I look at things as I do at a bank-bill. If its face is all right, and the bill itself all right, that’s enough. You women-folks have such a lot of moods and tenses! Look at this matter sensibly. Hobart was right in going. He’s doing his duty, and soon will be back with mind and conscience at rest. It isn’t as if he were ill himself.”
“Yes, papa, that’s just the difference; we women feel, and you men reason. What you say, though, is a good wholesome antidote. I fear I’m a little morbid to-day.”
After dinner she and her mother slipped over to the adjoining cottage, which had been made so pretty for her reception. While Mrs. Kemble busied herself here and there, Helen kindled a fire on the hearth of the sitting-room and sat down in the low chair which she knew was designed for her. The belief that she would occupy it daily and be at home, happy herself and, better far, making another, to whom she owed so much, happy beyond even his fondest hope, brought smiles to her face as she watched the flickering blaze.
“Yes,” she murmured, “I can make him happier even than he dreams. I know him so well, his tastes, his habits, what he most enjoys, that it will be an easy task to anticipate his wishes and enrich his life. Then he has been such a faithful, devoted friend! He shall learn that his example had not been lost on me.”
At this moment the wind rose in such a long mournful, human-like sigh about the house that she started up and almost shuddered. When the evening mail came and brought no letter, she found it hard indeed not to yield to deep depression. In vain her father reasoned with her. “I know all you say sounds true to the ear,” she said, “but not to my heart. I can’t help it; but I am oppressed with a nervous dread of some impending trouble.”
They passed the early hours of the evening as best they could, seeking to divert each other’s thoughts. It had been long since the kind old banker was so garrulous, and Helen resolved to reward him by keeping up. Indeed, she shrank from retiring, feeling that through the sleepless night she would be the prey of all sorts of wretched fancies. Never once did her wildest thoughts suggest what had happened, or warn her of the tempest soon to rage in her breast.