As the truth grew upon her she sprang away, wringing her hands and looking upon him with an indescribable expression of pity and dread. “Oh,” she now moaned aloud, “if he had only come back to me mutilated in body, helpless! but this change—”
She fled from the room, and Nichol stared after her in perplexed consternation.
“Forward! Company A”
When Mrs. Kemble was left alone with Captain Nichol’s parents in the sitting-room, she told them of Helen’s plan of employing the photograph in trying to recall their son to himself. It struck them as an unusually effective method. Mrs. Kemble saw that their anxiety was so intense that it was torture for them to remain in suspense away from the scene of action. It may be added that her own feelings also led her to go with them into the back parlor, where all that was said by Nichol and her daughter could be heard. Her solicitude for Helen was not less than theirs for their son; and she felt the girl might need both motherly care and counsel. She was opposed even more strenuously than her husband to any committal on the daughter’s part to her old lover unless he should become beyond all doubt his former self. At best, it would be a heavy cross to give up Martine, who had won her entire affection. Helen’s heart presented a problem too deep for solution. What would—what could—Captain Nichol be to her child in his present condition, should it continue?
It was but natural, therefore, that she and her husband should listen to Helen’s effort to awaken memories of the past with profound anxiety. How far would she go? If Nichol were able to respond with no more appreciative intelligence than he had thus far manifested, would a sentiment of pity and obligation carry her to the point of accepting him as he was, of devoting herself to one who, in spite of all their commiseration and endeavors to tolerate, might become a sort of horror in their household! It was with immense relief that they heard her falter in her story, for they quickly divined that there was nothing in him which responded to her effort. When they heard her rise and moan, “If he had only come back to me mutilated in body, helpless! but this change—” they believed that she was meeting the disappointment as they could wish.